Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Over-sleeping and some time to think at last

Since I have a couple of days off work, I've been sleeping way too much lately. The day seems really short when you get up at lunch time... Even tho i stay up till like 3 or 4am it doesn't really feel like i've been awake for very long. The trouble is that i can't make myself go to bed before i'm dead-tired, so i always manage to find things to do until early morning unless i really have to get up early... I have had some time to sit around and just read and think though which has been nice. Anyway, more on that a bit later.

On Monday, I finally had a proper hit of badminton wif Lung... for the first time in quite a few months. It really showed up my lack of match practice and fitness. I can hardly last thru half a drill.. sorry Lung haha. Still dunno if i have enough motivation to do some real training tho.

Last nite i went out with my cousins to Robot Bar (off Flinders Lane). Nice little place. The website claims 'Robot is a slice of Neo-Tokyo set in Melbourne's alley culture' - and i couldn't really agree more. It's got the cozy atmosphere of a small Tokyo bar, a nice selection of standard drinks and cocktails, and of course is Japanese run and owned. The only thing a bit weird was the number of random anime-loving people who all drifted in at about 9pm to watch the weekly screening of some anime series that's shown there. I think we musta been taking up their favourite spot because a few of them came upstairs only to find us in the corner, and then sorta stood there awkwardly for a bit before going back downstairs haha. (We could see them watching intently down there afterwards)...

With my spare time i've actually been reading some of the books i got while i was over in Japan - one novel/short-story and one on Japanese onomatopoeia (sound words). Hopefully i'll finish both before the end of the holidays.

Been reading more stuff on the Intelligent Design (I.D) debate lately too. But i'm still not very convinced by any of the arguments supporting it. The one that makes the most sense to me is the watch example: if you were to find a pocket watch lying in the grass one day, you wouldn't assume that it was created by some fluke of 'nature' - rather you would infer that it was the result of 'intelligent design'. Proponents of I.D theory argue that by analogy, many of the complexities of cell design are more likely to be the result of intelligent design than random chance. Stuff like irreducible complexity (ie things that only work together as a system, and not individually) cannot be explained by evolution theory (ie small, sequential modification to the existing) are the basis of this argument.

The problem with that is there seems to be strong evidence that evolution theory does have a more than plausible explanation for all of the examples cited by I.D proponents as exhibiting irreducible complexity/specified complexity etc. Parts of such 'irreducibly' complex systems in fact have uses individually - albeit uses different from that of the system as a whole.

The second place where the argument breaks down is that the analogy of finding a watch is quite different (i think) to understanding cell design. We can observe and have evidence of how a watch is created. We can watch the watch maker tightening the screws, attaching the wrist band and putting in a battery... So i think that is why when we see a watch lying on the ground we say "well, someone must have dropped it" rather than "it was created by random chance when the rock hit the pebble and a mini-big bang happened". But when we begin to talk about fields where all we have are really hypotheses - for example, cell design - we do not have evidence of the cell creation process to rely on. We can't say we observe 'the designer' putting proteins together to form a bacterial flagellum.. and thus when we find a new slightly different biochemical machine i don't think we have basis to infer that it was intelligently designed.

And there is still the problem that I.D theorists seem to basically jump from the proposition that 'A is so complex it is difficult to conceive that it was random' to 'therefore A must be the result of intelligent design.' Not a terribly good example of logical reasoning in my books. The most obvious problem with the argument is the possibility that we just haven't yet found the explanation for such complexities - not that we cannot find the answer.

The other problem i guess i have with it is that the strongest supporters of I.D appear to have a hidden agenda. Many such supporters have openly admitted that they believe the current school of scientific thinking is the reason for religion losing its centrality in modern Western society. The natural sciences operate on the secular assumption of natural caustaion - rather than the existence of some higher form of existence. Thus modern day education prejudices people against belief in religion which implicitly assumes the existence of a greater being. It seems to me, that people are almost trying to use I.D theory to provide 'scientific basis' for belief in the religious supernatural. There is nothing wrong with believing. But when it looks like the real agenda of many I.D theorists is to try to re-introduce religious teaching into mainstream school education, i'm even more skeptical of their claims that (currently) lack much evidentiary support.

Incidentally, what annoys me more is that many people refer to 'intelligent design' as the neutral possibility of an external intelligence, when in fact many such people are almost invariably referring to the Christian notion of God. I mean, if you want to believe in I.D theory, fine, but isn't it equally plausible then that we were all made by the little green men? ... but that's a rant for another day.

Anyway this post is getting waay too long. I'll leave it there.

1 comment:

Ez said...

Because I'm still at work and late meeting you for dinner, I thought I'd look up this nice quote.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
- Arthur C. Clarke