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Richard Dawkins: The Importance of Doing Useless Things


via Big Think

Sunday Evening Commentarium for 2013/06/09


The ligne is still used by French and Swiss wa...

The ligne is still used by French and Swiss watchmakers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

G’day. I’m engaged in a little project right now on the various forms of creationism, including intelligent design creationism, and while reading up on the latter, I couldn’t help but notice how intellectually bereft it is, even though it’s got a nice shiny coat of sciencey-sounding language to dress it up.

For example, there’s meaningless jargon like ‘irreducible complexity’ and ‘specified complexity’ terms used by ID proponents to disquise arguments from ignorance, more candidly expressed as, “I don’t understand how the complexity of life could have come about by natural processes, therefore no one can, therefore ID.”

The idea of ID is that whatever we don’t currently understand about the origin and diversity of life, it’s impossible to understand at all, so that we may as well not even ask the question, much less look for answers.

It implies that ID proponents are somehow wiser than those closed-minded Darwinian theorists and know the future state of knowledge better than anyone else.

It implies impossibly certain knowledge of what we can ultimately understand for all time — and this strikes me as an incredibly arrogant and presumptuous line of thinking, especially by non-scientists and would be so even if they were somehow scientists.

ID teaches those who accept it to fatalistically give up any form of meaningful inquiry, not just in biology, but in every field of science, for the basic premise of ID, that the mysteries of the universe are forever unsolvable, would cripple scientific work.

To paraphrase the character of a friend of mine in a Call of Cthulhu many years ago, it seems  “cowardice in the face of Reason.”

I consider it a surrender to ignorance, a failure of intellectual nerve. I find it to essentially say, “Science isn’t as easy as just invoking a god to fill that gap in our current knowledge, so let’s just give up on it.”

My view is that it is the latest misguided attempt by perfectly intelligent, educated people to justify their religious views in a modern world, and though the marketing campaign for ID has claimed the fight with Evolution is about fairness and ‘teaching the controversy,’ it’s really not…

…but a politicized conflict between science and antiscience.

Nothing more, no matter how slick the packaging and presentation to the public is.

Sunday Evening Commentarium is a regular installment posted at 6:00 PM Eastern Time each Sunday, on a question or matter bringing itself to my attention during the previous week.

Lawrence Krauss on Caveman Common Sense


Finding Darwin’s Fractals: Evolutionary Parallels and the Fitness of Images


Nocticulens

Nocticulens

I don’t often generate my fractals from scratch, unless I’m sure I know what I’m looking for in a piece or feel adventurous and prone to fooling around.

But there’s nothing mystical about the process. Nothing to elicit awe save the resulting image itself when it’s fully rendered.

Usually, with Fractal Domains or Mandelbulber, I’ll use a previously saved set of parameters, or software settings ready-made for whatever I happen to have in mind. It saves me time and effort. But I’ve noticed that there’s an interesting similarity between my use of parameter sets, the process I use to create, keep, alter, and sometimes delete, with biological evolution.

The selective pressures for this evolutionary process, of course derive from the perceived coolness and beauty, according to the beholders, of the images…that particular set’s fitness for continuing to generate the best images over time. This selective pressure involved rests on esthetic evaluations and tastes, and tends to shift over time.

This has led to my continuously updating my stock of parameter sets to maintain image fitness by varying my content, whether by gradual modification accumulating into major alterations, micro-evolution that builds into macro-evolution.

And for other sets, there is relative stability over time punctuated by sudden and major changes, as with switching a set from one distinct fractal type into another with Mandelbulber by tweaking menu buttons.

Some sets exhaust their possibilities, or just aren’t viable for making good-looking images, and so lose their fitness, becoming ‘extinct’ by being sent to the trash folder and deleted, or by using the terminal window to delete them directly.

Others continue to evolve, but adjusting to the shifting in personal judgements of what’s cool and what’s not. I’ve come up with a term I use to refer to the best images, from those sets that continue to remain adaptive:

Horrific elegance.

It refers to the cold, stark, sometimes weird, and reportedly, the occasionally erotic ‘feel’ of the images, those whose coolness keeps their set of origin fit, and thus ready to pass its data to an update or when using one set to create another as its descendant, unless and until it is eliminated by unfavorable shifts in the selective pressures.

That, and my finger on the delete button.

I probably won’t need parameter sets for anything but the most data-heavy images using very complex code to generate them, but it’s really cool how an artistic endeavor, hobby or professional, so nicely fits with biology, and sometimes the images themselves have almost a life of their own.

 

Happy Darwin Day, 2013


 

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