Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Elevator in the Brain Hotel Media

"Elevator in the Brain Hotel"

(plain chalk handwriting now known
not to have been drawn by any
individual under the influence)

"Epistle To Dippy"

Look on yonder misty mountain
See the young monk meditating rhododendron forest
Over dusty years, I ask you
What's it been like being you?
Through all levels you've been changing
Getting a little bit better no doubt,
The doctor bit was so far out.
Looking through crystal spectacles,
I can see I had your fun.
Doing us paperback reader
Made the teacher suspicious about insanity,
Fingers always touching girl.
Through all levels you've been changing
Getting a little bit better no doubt,
The doctor bit was so far out.
Looking through all kinds of windows
I can see I had your fun.
Looking through all kinds of windows
I can see I had your fun.
Looking through crystal spectacles
I can see I had your fun.
Looking through crystal spectacles
I can see I had your fun.
Rebelling against society,
Such a tiny speculating whether to be a hip or
Skip along quite merrily.
Through all levels you've been changing
Elevator in the brain hotel
Broken down a-just as well-a
Looking through crystal spectacles,
Ah, I can see I had your fun.
Dum dum dum, dum dum dum dum dum
Dum dum dum, dum dum dum dum dum
Dum dum dum, dum dum dum dum dum
Dum dum dum, dum dum dum dum dum
Dum dum dum, dum dum dum dum dum

Monday, April 28, 2008

Elevator in the Brain Hotel

I walked into Java on Sherman and ordered my semi-usual English Breakfast Tea. I looked up at the "Daily Specials" sign, which had a moon, rainbow, purple clouds, and the words "Mom's Favorite" drawn on it in chalk. The "special" was listed as "Elevator in the Brain Hotel", which was [not] drawn in ornate, psychedelic calligraphy [but in the normal handwriting of its artist]. I asked a community character and current Java barista what "Elevator in the Brain Hotel" meant, and she cupped her mouth in my direction and whispered, "high kids working on the weekend".

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Fatal Flaw in the Thesis of Stein's "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed"

Yesterday I went with my step father-in-law to see Ben Stein's new film "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed".

I actually really enjoyed it.

Stein's easing personality is funny and uniquely charming. I love his facial expressions and his tone of voice and his way of asking the most obvious questions in the most earnest fashion. I like his dryness. I like his sarcasm. I like his ability to instantiate comedic situations. I like his shoes.

The film is really well put together cinematically, and it even makes a decent case that there has been some shifty censorship in the American scientific academy.

Then it progresses into some of the actual arguments proffered by the budding Intelligent Design movement.

Because of this progressive quality to the film, it can be difficult to summarize its thesis. Nevertheless, in light of the overarching theme indicated by its title, I offer the following summary of "Expelled": the prevailing posture assumed by scientific academia in America is wrongfully both dogmatic and censoring.

Even though I like Stein's personality and think that he does a winsome job of establishing his thesis, I maintain that that thesis was wrong-headed to begin with.

The movie's central metaphor is the Berlin Wall. The idea is that the entrenched neo-Darwinian machine discriminates against those whose views are fundamentally distinct from it, thus acting like a kind of intellectual wall preventing alternative paradigms from being considered. Images of the Jewish Stein speaking in exposé of the cases of censorship he documents are cross-cut with images of Reagan speaking his infamous instructions to Gorbachev to "tear down this Wall".

But is the metaphor justified? Certainly censorship is like a wall in many respects, but just as sure as the fact that not all walls are created equal, it is so that we ought not condemn all instances of censorship. Stein himself admits this during a line in the film when he tentatively reasons, "perhaps Intelligent Design should be censored - I mean, we don't want scientists teaching that the earth is flat" (paraphrased).

Stein implies that if there isn't any substance to Intelligent Design, as there is no substance to Flat Earthism (or is there?), it deserves to be censored.

This point should be obvious. Nobody is complaining about the censorship of Spontaneous Generation in American science classrooms. That's because there is a consensus on its falsity. We've learned that maggots aren't spontaneously generated by rotting meat, and any who teach so authoritatively should be criticized, characterized as child abusers, and prosecuted like the leaders of the FLDS.

We've thrown out concepts like the Ether, and "Ectoplasm" is now only used to comedically make points in philosophical literature.

We distinguish between alchemy and science.

C. S. Lewis' friend Dorothy Sayers wrote a book called "Creed or Chaos: Why Christians Must Choose Either Dogma or Disaster", whose point and mine are virtually one and the same. There simply must be a standard, some orthodoxy, a common worldview whose alternatives are censored in some fashion. This is true of religion and it is true of science.

Both need creeds.

A friend to them both, G. K. Chesterton provides us with a well put insight:
Religious authority has often, doubtless, been oppressive or unreasonable; just as every legal system (and especially our present one) has been callous and full of a cruel apathy. It is rational to attack the police; nay, it is glorious. But the modern critics of religious authority are like men who should attack the police without ever having heard of burglars. For there is a great and possible peril to the human mind: a peril as practical as burglary. Against it religious authority was reared, rightly or wrongly, as a barrier. And against it something certainly must be reared as a barrier, if our race is to avoid ruin.

That peril is that the human intellect is free to destroy itself.

- Orthodoxy, Chapter 3: The Suicide of Thought
That is true of religious authority and it is true of scientific authority.

What the Darwinists have right is that when we as a society determine that a scientific theory is well-supported enough, we should teach it. And something should be reared as a barrier - a wall - in protection of it.

And when we have determined that a paradigm has little merit (like Flat Earthism, the Ether, and Ectoplasm), we absolutely should censor it from being taught in our schools.

Censorship doesn't have to mean that we never speak of something again. We could mention it in history (like Alchemy or Roman Mythology), English (like Atlantis), World Religion (like Islam), philosophy (like the postmodern epistemology), or even in the science classroom if it merits mention as a controversial movement under development (like M-Theory) - so long as we do not teach fringe theories as scientific doctrine. There must be a paradigmatic scientific orthodoxy whose teaching prevails until it is unseated (think of how Einsteinian relativity unseated Newtonian physics).

This isn't a matter of free speech like Stein claims. Let's be honest; he has been allowed to make this film! And according to its website, it will be propagated more extensively than any other documentary:
“Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” will boast the largest U.S. opening of any documentary film ever. Scheduled for release in 1,000 theatres, “Expelled” will be hotter than “Farenheit 9/11,” which debuted on 868 screens, and much more convenient to see than “An Inconvenient Truth,” which I was surprised to find opened on only four screens nationwide despite all the hype, peaking at 587 before its appeal melted.

-The blog for "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed"
Therefore even if Stein succeeds in documenting several cases in which those with questions about Darwinism were censored in a harsh or at least secretive manner, he fails to establish that they who no longer maintain the prevailing orthodoxy should not have been censored at all.

The effort is wasted, because there will always (at least should always) be a standard platform on which we absolutely require our teachers to stand - and fire them if they cease to. Making it politically incorrect to do so will only result in its occurrence being performed secretly.

Should we then be so surprised that this is perhaps already happening?

Or worse yet - efforts like Stein's just might succeed in tearing down the Wall altogether.

Can you imagine what kind of crazy theories that would allow to come flooding into the academy? What if science professors were allowed to teach whatever they want?

The prevailing scientific paradigm in America is rightfully both dogmatic and censoring.

Instead of arguing that the prevailing scientific orthodoxy of today is wrongfully dogmatic and censoring, Stein should argue that the prevailing scientific orthodoxy of today is wrong. He should then offer a rival paradigm powerful enough to unseat the current orthodoxy.

But isn't that what he does during the latter stages of the film? Haven't I been a bit unfair to Intelligent Design, by comparing it with such barbaric concepts as the Ether and Flat Earthism? Isn't it the case that the neo-Darwinian machine is so stubborn that it is refusing to even consider Intelligent Design as an alternative paradigm in the first place? Haven't the Darwinists replaced an open-minded scientific posture with a closed-minded one? Haven't they erected a Wall that keeps even the citizens out? Isn't that the whole point of the film?

There are two claims bound up in the reaction I anticipate from my modest but beloved and probably largely theistic readership. The first is that the prevailing Darwinian orthodoxy is too stubborn to consider alternative paradigms. The second is that Intelligent Design is a robust scientific theory, which deserves consideration.

I disagree with both.

In rebuttal of the first claim, allow a word from a recent LA Times opinion writer:
In Charles Darwin's own time, of course, numerous books and articles were published critiquing his theory, and through the turn of the century there was still no underlying mechanism to explain how natural selection works and why so much skepticism remained. From the 1930s through the '60s, the neo-Darwinian synthesis and its many variants seriously revised many aspects of Darwin's original theory. In the '70s, Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge successfully remodeled Darwinian gradualism with their theory of punctuated equilibrium.

In the 1980s, Lynn Margulis overthrew neo-Darwinism in the microscopic world with her theory of symbiogenesis, demonstrating that random changes in DNA and natural selection alone do not lead to speciation (at a science conference I attended she said, "It was like confessing a murder when I discovered I was not a neo-Darwinist"). In the '90s, sociobiologists and evolutionary psychologists battled Gould's and Richard Lewontin's belief that Darwinism cannot account for much of human psychology and culture. Currently, David Sloan Wilson's theory of group selection is making inroads into seriously modifying models of individual selection, and I even heard the highly respected evolutionary theorist William Provine (featured in "Expelled") tell an audience of scientists, "Natural selection does not shape an adaptation or cause a gene to spread over a population or really do anything at all."

-Michael Shermer
Darwinism has undergone scrutiny at every turn.

And in rebuttal of the second claim, that Intelligent Design is a robust theory, which deserves consideration, allow a second word from the same writer:
the ID proponent Paul Nelson (also featured in "Expelled") confessed: "Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design. We don't have such a theory right now, and that's a problem. Without a theory, it's very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we've got a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as 'irreducible complexity' and 'specified complexity' -- but, as yet, no general theory of biological design."
And this point shouldn't be too controversial either; even the Discovery Institute's list of dissenters has as its creed:
We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.

-Dissent From Darwinism
This is not a stand-alone theory, which makes falsifiable predictions about the future in order to direct scientific research. It is an undercutting statement about an existing theory. But that's just their Dissent website. What about their main site? It suffers from the same problem:
Intelligent Design starts with the empirical evidence of nature and seeks to ascertain what inferences can be drawn from that evidence.

-What is Intelligent Design?
The keyword cited above is "inference". The current state of Intelligent Design is one of inference; it starts with the evidence and works backwards, reasoning to the best explanation. Such a method may provide a little warrant for certain beliefs, but it ought not masquerade as Scientific. Science is one particular method of inquiry, whereby falsifiable predictions about the future are made (not inferences about the past).

Perhaps the Intelligent Design movement is on the right track, but it has a very long way to go in order to rival the reigning orthodoxy, and it ought not demand respect until it has earned it.

There are no shortcuts.

Then, when Intelligent Design unseats the neo-Darwinian machine, becoming king of the Hill, and proceeds to govern research in the Scientific Kingdom, it can appreciate the Wall without being hypocritical.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Ben Stein's "Expelled": Why Serious Evolutionary Scientists Can't Take Us Seriously

I saw (seriously don't go watch it yet, I have to tell you about it first) this YouTube video on my friend Roger's blog, promoting an upcoming movie. Now don't get me wrong; I happen to be a Classical Theist. What's more, I happen to be a Christian. But that doesn't prevent me from noticing that like a laughable cultural icon controversially demanding something as serious as full custody of her own children, a small but arguably snowballing movement of "Intelligent" Design theorists throw back their heads in laughter, wallowing in their own creations of culturally textured satiric propaganda targeting the Common American Groundling whilst demanding to be taken seriously by the small but clearly influential, highly educated postmodern international scientific community at large:

Meanwhile Stein's film is laughed at by those to whom legitimate scientific and philosophical argumentation and the display of excellence and love is actually imperative for life-altering, destiny-altering, paradigm-shifts.

Of course I laughed at this YouTube video; I am already atheist (whoops - I am am already a theist), and I just so happen (incidentally and independently) to not be a Classical Darwinist. But what's more, I laughed at this video because it's goofy.

Take me seriously.
"Take me seriously."

What is "Classical Theism"?

I couldn't find a good definition to link to, so I am issuing one henceforth:

Classical Theism: The belief in a single God who can do anything logically possible (omnipotence), knows every true proposition (omniscience), and always makes the maximally loving decisions possible (omnibenevolence). The classical theist's God created and designed everything that is physical (the universe), and more broadly speaking, everything that exists in some sense flows from this God and is dependent on this God. The classical theist's God exists by necessity (aseity), and does not depend on the universe for existence or happiness (transcendence), but chooses to interact with the universe (immanence). While the previous propositions entail the following, it is worth mentioning explicitly that the God posited by "Classical Theism" has definite attributes, including but not limited to emotion, intellect, & will, and is capable of decision-making (personality).

I avoided gender-specific terms in my definition of Classical Theism above. I also tried to keep it to the basics, but fear that even this definition is particular enough to exclude some I would consider Classical Theists (perhaps certain Muslim individuals or even whole sects of Islam or Judaism. Let it be known however, that the Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all considered Classical Theists. In fact, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are considered the three main Classical Theistic religions, although there existed Classical Theists before them [some classify Plato and Aristotle as Classical Theists, for example - or you might argue that Abraham was or became a Classical Theist during his lifetime. You can call him a Jew if you want; whatever].).

My main point here is only to communicate to those of you who don't know that "Classical Theism" is a philosophical and historical term that has a widely understood meaning in academia, entailing at least monotheism, and belief in the "three omni's", as well as transcendence and immanence, and usually a sort of Creationism and also usually a belief in a version of Divine Personality.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Peace Sign is Not a Broken Cross

I grew up believing that the peace sign was a Christian cross, whose arms had been broken upward, and whose entirety had been turned upside down; that it was anti-Christ.

On its 50th anniversary, the Spokesman Review syndicated a Washington Post piece on its origin. Nothing is said of any anti-Christian connotations, however its graphic designer is quoted as saying
I drew myself… a man in despair… put a circle around it to represent the world.
24 years (this Monday) of believing incorrectly about the motivations for the shape of a symbol whose intension is peace. Wikipedia elaborates and offers some supporting documentation For those interested.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Libertarianism/Human Rights/Universal Healthcare & Rob Bell/Limited Atonement/Natural Consequence Model vs. Penal Substitution Model/Have I Even Read

Just to let you guys know, I haven't forgotten about these issues. I am still thinking and researching and procrastinating and focusing on higher priorities, and writing down thoughts. I am not blatantly ignoring you because I have been defeated but not persuaded, or something like that. I appreciate your comments and I plan on getting to them someday (soon).

OS X Leopard Helvetica Font Conflict Problem: Solved

Suitcase Fusion for Mac - Boxed
Update July 21st, 2008: A very powerful font management tool called Extensis Suitcase expertly handles font conflicts and can no doubt help you take control of Helvetica on your Leopard machine. Click here right now to check out Suitcase Fusion for Mac.

Recently upgrade to Leopard? Does your MacBook or MacBook Pro now insist that there is a conflict with the font "Helvetica"?

I was once in your shoes, young man (or woman).

This issue has plagued me since upgrading to Leopard on my MacBook Pro. Every time I boot up my computer it gives me this conflict message, and quite often when I start up an iWork or Office program, I get error messages and font problem junk, etc. etc.

I did a bit of research on the problem, and there are a lot of posts that, to be honest, are a bit over my head. Either that or I just don't feel like the time it will take me to really get to the bottom of the issue is worth it - I need to get to work, not sit and learn all about deep-level system junk (although I like to pick up what I can here and there from websites or local programming and design buddies that hang around coffee shops like me).

If you are like me, and are having this Helvetica font conflict problem, and understand a tiny bit more than the average MacUser, but are far from a programming or design genius, this easy, step-by-step tutorial is for you.

Before you read on, at least skim these pages:

Why there is now a problem with Helvetica
Where OS X stores fonts and why

If you know more than me and want to add to the conversation, please feel free to leave your comment.

I am not responsible for any failures or errors or problems that arise because of trying to follow this advice. I take no responsibility for your choices and I make no guarantees. I just honestly testify that this worked to solve the Helvetica font problem for me and my 17" 2.33 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro (3 GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM), running OS X 10.5.1 Leopard.

Sometimes messing with fonts brings on more problems than you started with. Consider yourself sternly warned.

Fair warning: I have had over 30,000 fonts on my system at some point in time, because I inherited a disc from a printer. Most of these were corrupt, and I have been through font hell because of it. To me, its worth cleaning my font library up at the expense of losing fonts. I figure that system fonts will force themselves to survive (or my Mac will die if they die, or something - knock on wood), and any design fonts I need will be given to me, or I will purchase. My tutorial will naturally reflect this posture toward my fonts. Keep that in mind.

Personally, I also chose to run Titanium Software's OnyX before and after I went forward with this font stuff. OnyX is a free system maintenance utility for OS X (they keep different versions for Tiger, Leopard, etc.). I pretty much ran most all of the "Cleaning" and "Automation" functions within OnyX.

Ok, here it goes:
Step 1: Download and install the newest version of LinoType's FontExplorer X (this is a free iTunes-like font management application available for both Mac's and PC's. It even has a built-in font store. You should also be able to follow similar steps with the much more powerful Suitcase Fusion for Mac).

Step 2: In the preference panel for FontExplorer X, go to "Font Requests" and check all boxes (these will be things like "Enable interception of font requests", "Automatically activate requested font if possible", and then a list of applications and a box for "All others").

Step 3: In the preference panel for FontExplorer X, go to "Advanced" and check "Manage font files", and select the bubble for "Move".

[NOTE: I personally like my fonts to be held at /FontExplorer X, so I changed FontExplorer's font folder to this - that way I can tinker with permissions without having to sort through user folders when I want multiple users to be able to mess around with fonts.]

Step 4: Click the "Move now" button and go refill your coffee and use the restroom.

Step 5: In the "Advanced" preference panel, check "Use FontExplorer X as default handler for font files", and close the Preferences window.

Step 6: Open a new Finder window, and type the following into the search field: ".dfont" OR ".ttf" OR ".otf". Make sure Finder (Spotlight) is searching the contents of every file on your entire Mac (I saved this search so that I can go back and reference it in the future). Make a phone call while you wait, or take a minute to pray for someone you care about.

Step 7: When the search is complete select all of those files, and drag them onto FontExplorer X. Get out of your seat and do a few push-ups while you wait for everything to go through.

Step 8: In FontExplorer X, click on "Conflicts" and in the bottom window, select "Multiple times activated PostScript Name" from the drop-down menu. FontExplorer should show you a column that displays each fonts "Path". If it doesn't you can turn this on in the "view" menu. Systematically go through and uncheck the box next to each duplicate font whose path does NOT start with "System". If there remain any duplicates, uncheck the box next to each font whose path does NOT start with "FontExplorer".

Step 9: While still in the "Conflicts" section of FontExplorer X, select "Duplicates" from the drop-down menu in the bottom window panel. Check both "Replace removed duplicates in Sets with remaining font" and "Move files of removed duplicates to trash" at your own risk (I did). Check every font, and select the bubble next to each version whose path does NOT start with "System" or "FontExplorer". Push the "Resolve duplicates" button at your own risk (I did).

Step 10: While still in the "Conflicts" section of FontExplorer X, select "Fonts listed in FontExplorer X but deleted in Finder" from the drop-down menu in the bottom window panel. Select all the fonts that show up and press the "Remove selected font(s) from FontExplorer X" button at your own risk (I did).

[Note: As for "Fonts with missing printer-font files" - I just cut my losses and deleted all of them.]

Step 11: Under the "Tools" menu option, systematically select each item that starts with "Clean". Follow any instructions the program gives you (I think it asks you to restart). Then go back and run the "Optimize database" menu item.
And that's all I got. After doing this and running OnyX, my font problems disappeared.

Best of luck to you in your journey through font hell because of Apple's poor decision to suddenly make Helvetica a system font without providing adequate support for those of us fiercely loyal (religious? cultish?) MacUsers who actually have a couple fonts and are (heaven forbid) upgrading to Leopard from Tiger.

May God bless your trials and errors, and may your system run smoothly and efficiently, without any further font conflicts.

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Sort of like "my other car is a porsche" - my other website is a Coeur d'Alene SEO company's website.