2005-08-11

Beer Can Chicken

...made easy:
Chicken sittin' on a beer can

2005-08-04

Backbone

. . . I always wanted more of that.
Spinal Column Keychain
Now in handy keychain form.

(This is what happens when someone lets the bio-statistician buy the party favors.)

Religious qualms with intelligent design

In their last issue, The Economist ran a piece on intelligent design in the schools, "Intelligent design rears its head: It's subtler than creationism, and may be coming soon to a classroom near you". This bit touched on what I find so problematic about intelligent design:
With its claims (however spurious) of scientific respectability, intelligent design promises to reconcile mass anti-evolutionism with science. Strict creationism has been long discredited and, since the Supreme Court decision of Edwards v Aguillard (1987), may not be taught in state schools. But intelligent design is a different matter. Its proponents accept that the earth is billions of years old. They agree that gene mutation and natural selection occur within species, though not necessarily between species. They concede that scientific method, not biblical authority, is the arbiter of truth. Proponents do not even demand that intelligent design should replace evolution in the classroom, merely that schools should "teach the controversy" (which they themselves have created). In short, religious Americans who find evolution distasteful are jumping at the chance to teach an alternative that claims to be science.
As a religious person (or whatever), I'm quite comfortable with the idea that God was involved with getting the world to where it is today, and I think there's quite a lot of theological wiggle-room as to how that involvement went and what it amounted to. Obviously, my qualms with intelligent design aren't objections to a divine role. My objections are twofold:
  1. Intelligent design purports to be science — it isn't. This claim has received a lot of attention elsewhere, so I won't add much. Suffice it to say that the theory of intelligent design, even if it is true, isn't a scientific theory and is not the product of scientific methods (whatever exactly they are). This leads to my second, and more important, objection…
  2. Intelligent design itself accepts the notion that science is the way to truth: it justifies it's assertion of respectability by claiming to be better science than the going evolutionary theory. Whether this claim is made honestly or is merely part of a strategy to persuade is besides the point. What matters is that it perpetuates the idea that science offers the exclusive pathway to knowledge of the world, and it is this idea that is incompatible with religious belief (or at least any religion founded on revelation). The most that religion can accept is that science is but one way to truth, and that where the conclusions of science irreconcilably conflict with the tenets of religion, the truth obtained through science is qualified as merely the perspective on ultimate reality by certain methods and tools.
Succinctly put, intelligent design suffers from two faults which are fatal to any doctrine deployed in support of religion:
First, its principle claims are false and misleading and, to many, transparently so. Those people are in large part not religious — it is a shame that more religious people are not among them! — and the association of intelligent design with religion impugns religion in their eyes.
Second, it endorses the priority of science in arriving at truth. To my mind, scientism is a far greater threat to religion than evolution ever was. Evolution, on the other hand, poses its greatest threat to bad theology, which we religious people should be glad to be rid of.

2005-08-03

OK, I want one

The truth is I haven't ever been entirely happy with the Kensington StudioMouse, and have always preferred the weighting and feeling of recent Apple mice. Now that they're buttonful, I don't think I can resist.

Unfortunately, the programmable features only function with Tiger, which is a deal breaker for me since I'm stuck on Panther until the IT people at school get around to releasing a version of the VPN software they use that's Tiger compatible.

UPDATE: Ars has a review.

2005-08-02

My Summer

My life in Ph.D. yet again.

Translating the שלחן ערוך

OK, so it isn't quite the project I was hoping for, but it's a worthy one nonetheless:
http://wikisource.org/wiki/Shulchan_Aruch

This is more or less the way I envisioned proceeding in translating קש''ע מקור חיים. If anyone is interested in helping me get that translation project off the ground, i.e. finding out what its copyright status is / getting permission for the project, please get in touch.

2005-08-01

יהי רצון

Many of my people (you know whom I mean) add an additional prayer just before stepping back at the conclusion of the amidah. I'm rather fond of it and finally got around to typing it up so I could paste it into my siddurim which don't include it. I thought I'd share:
יהי רצון
The original is in Mellel format using the SBL Hebrew font, which I can send to anyone who'd like a copy; alternatively, I'm happy to send a PDF (ready for printing) with the text sized to fit any space you might like.