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Comments by Sifl

Go to: Mission Accomplished

Sifl's Avatar Jump to comment 83 by Sifl

Quoth TFA:

on television, real science news has long been struggling, and CNN has let go of its entire science and technology unit.

I propose that we petition CNN to introduce new shows about the most fascinating areas of scientific inquiry---not just to make science interesting but to show people what science is and what it is not.

It should be possible to make an entire show (or at least a regular segment!) about neuroscience, for example. I move we nominate Vilayanur Ramachandran as presenter of such a program. It could be called "Neur-O-Rama with Dr. Ramachandran".

I'm only half-joking about the title. (:

Tue, 20 Jan 2009 13:23:00 UTC | #309464

Go to: Obama the Secularist

Sifl's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by Sifl

In Comment #279723, AdamMil wrote:

I've seen this video before. It sounds nice, but he's clearly speaking to an audience that shares the viewpoint he's espousing.

Given that politicians almost always try to please the audience by telling them what they want to hear, I think it's premature to get your hopes up.

But these videos have been available on Obama's campaign website for a *very long time*. Therefore his audience is---and has been and will be---the *entire world*.

Besides, these days it's totally unreasonable for any politician to expect to get away with being two-faced in the way that you suggest: one has to assume, when speaking to any crowd, that there are people there recording video and/or audio---if not with dedicated recording devices then with cell phones; further one must assume that said people have YouTube accounts.

And that's a beautiful thing.

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 10:34:00 UTC | #266029

Go to: Enemies of Reason: Available now on DVD!

Sifl's Avatar Jump to comment 67 by Sifl

Hi Cube,

Thanks for that link.

It brings to mind another quote from Richard (if we're aiming for terse descriptions) that he expressed during an interview on an Irish program (whose name escapes me at the moment): He was asked to sum up the essence of Darwinian evolution, and his response was something like, "the non-random survival of randomly-varying codes."

I suspect that people like princezephyr need to hear that bit early and often; it might prompt some of them to pause, scratch their heads, and then maybe read up on the subject.

Fri, 15 Aug 2008 07:50:00 UTC | #218477

Go to: Enemies of Reason: Available now on DVD!

Sifl's Avatar Jump to comment 64 by Sifl

In comment #230678, princezephyr wrote:

It is an absence of sense and reason to support evolution on one hand and to state that life cannot come about by chance on the other. That is due to the fact that according to the theory of evolution, which Dawkins supports, the existence of life is based on entirely random coincidences.

It's clear that you don't yet understand what Darwinian evolution is. I'll refer you to a couple of starting points so that you can make some advances in that direction, but first, here's something you should try to keep in mind:

The theory (and fact) of evolution by natural selection has always involved a *component* of randomness; however, the "natural selection" part of it has always been understood to be very non-random. If that seems like a self-contradictory statement, if it seems like randomness would rule the day if randomness is involved at all, then think of a casino.

In a casino, the outcome of any individual roll of dice, spinning of a roulette wheel, shuffling of cards, etc. is pretty much random. But the casino consistently turns a profit, and it does so very non-randomly. That's because each game is set up in such a way that probability favors the house to win on average. Now please note, I'm not trying to say that evolution works like a casino. Instead I'm just pointing out that this is a case where randomness has a role to play (and it's a necessary role!) but it's not a *dominant* role: a casino is a relatively ordered system. And the same can be said of the role of randomness in evolution.

Secondly, please be aware that Richard *never claimed* that evolution was all about chance. (If you think otherwise, then please cite a specific instance that supports your suggestion and please let us know where we can find that quote.)

Now then, on to some linkage:

Here's episode 1 of Richard's most recent attempt to educate the masses on the basic idea (and some of the evidence---about as much as can fit into a short TV program on the subject):

Here's episode 2:

Here's a nice resource from UC Berkeley:

Now having said all that, I think your offer (to have Richard or someone else participate in a public discussion about evolution) might have been reasonable. But the format you suggest would be inappropriate: before you start to *debate* with scientists like Richard about evolution, your side really needs to do an honest job of *learning what Darwinian evolution is*. Now, if you were to suggest that Richard and other biologists conduct public lectures on the topic, that would be more interesting (and more productive).

Fri, 15 Aug 2008 06:49:00 UTC | #218467

Go to: On TV: The Genius of Charles Darwin: Presented by Richard Dawkins

Sifl's Avatar Jump to comment 14 by Sifl

You know, they (the BBC) really do produce a fair amount of high-quality programming. E.g. I really enjoy QI (presented by Stephen Fry) and Top Gear (which, as a resident of the U.S., I've been able to see bits of only because of YouTube). I expect this new series presented by Richard will be at least as engaging.

I just wish I could get the BBC programming here. I mean, it's 2008 already! Shouldn't every country be able to directly access every other country's television programming by now? It's not as if we don't have the bandwidth; there are nearly a thousand channel spaces offered by Comcast on the east coast, and the vast majority of it isn't worth a moment's notice. Why can't we have a little bit of *good* programming for a change?

Update: Oops; I referred to the BBC, but this series from Richard is being offered by Channel 4. (I was under the mistaken impression that "Channel Four" was a synonym for BBC Four.)

Fri, 01 Aug 2008 16:44:00 UTC | #211595

Go to: Degrees of religion

Sifl's Avatar Jump to comment 66 by Sifl

In response to comment #205994 by LaTomate...

I thought the article was ok all round, except for the last phrase:

It may not be a highly insightful or revolutionary philosophy but if a few more of us believed it, there would be far less pain, conflict and terror not only in the city of London but all throughout the western world.

Sounds like a threat (as usual).

LaTomate, I don't think she meant what you think she meant. I think the philosophy to which she refers appears at the end of the preceding paragraph:

As long as a person's actions do not harm anyone and stay within the range of their moral barometer, I think they deserve respect.

This is actually very close to what I suspect most atheists think: that the vast majority of questions about morality can be neatly answered once we have taken a full account of who suffers, to what degree they suffer, and whether that suffering could have been prevented. The fact that we share this common ground of morality needs to be amplified.

So I think she's right: If everyone just followed the "do-what-you-will-so-long-as-it-does-no-harm" rule, there *would* be a lot less pain, conflict and terror. Obviously we could in theory do even better, but that would be a fantastic milestone.

Of course, the second part (that respect is deserved when a person "[stays] within the range of their moral barometer") may be open to debate. In particular, if a non-harmful and non-beneficial action is "within the range of [a person's] moral barometer", I don't see why it should automatically warrant any special respect just because it's dictated by a religion. (Of course, such an action certainly shouldn't be prohibited either, since non-harmfulness is a given.)

Tue, 08 Jul 2008 11:06:00 UTC | #196008