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Ben Stein's 'Expelled' - Evolution, Academia and Conformity

abb3w Re:What I am opposed to ... (1766 comments)

... is the closing of minds
ideas are dangerous to closed minds.

However, an open mind is no reason not to properly categorize things.

The question of what is versus what isn't science is one of philosophy. Science requires certain underlying philosophical assumptions; the question of what assumptions should be used is fair to debate... but is NOT a scientific question.

Assumptions of basic Boolean logical and Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory axioms are exceptionally uncontroversial in philosophy. They allow for construction of most of the familiar mathematics geeks play with. If you make the assumption of the Strong Church-Turing Universe Thesis to bound complexity, you can derive (or, being sensible, read the papers where Wallace/Dowe and Vitanyi/Li derived) a formal relationship between "Minimum Description Length Induction, Bayesianism and Kolmogorov Complexity", which allows for a rigorous definition of science as competitive testing for a very formal sense of "simplest descriptive explanation for all the evidence". And, no, "God Diddit!" doesn't win, because it's insufficiently descriptive of the evidence under the formal criteria.

As such, Intelligent Design becomes a candidate hypothesis rejected because it does not descriptively explain the evidence anywhere near as concisely as Evolution. Intelligent Design is not science, any more than the idea of the Luminiferous Ether is. Perhaps the Search for Intelligent Design might remain a scientific pursuit (as SETI is), but to do so it must admit that it has failed even more miserably than SETI.

more than 6 years ago



Mixed news on Wiretapping from 9th Circuit USCoA

abb3w abb3w writes  |  about 7 years ago

abb3w (696381) writes "The bad news: the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that the Al-Haramain lawyers may not submit into evidence their recollections of the top secret document handed to them detailing the warrantless electronic scrutiny they received. "Once properly invoked and judicially blessed, the state secrets privilege is not a half-way proposition." The good news: they have declined to answer and directed the lower court to consider whether "FISA preempts the common law state secrets privilege" with respect to the underlying nature of the program itself... which also keeps alive hopes for the EFF and ACLU to make those responsible answer for their actions.

Coverage at CNET, the NYTimes, and elsewhere; PDF of ruling here."



Apple USB Modem (Motorola SM56 based) driver

abb3w abb3w writes  |  more than 7 years ago

So, a number of people on the World Wide Web seem to be in a quiet quest for a Windows driver for Apple's USB Modem. Possibly because it's a cute little modem, possibly just because it's there. As someone who keeps a toolbox of gizmos handy for techrepair, it would be nice to have one POTS modem that worked with either any PC or Mac.

Now, Motorola seems to make a "universal" driver available for their PCI/Serial/AMR modems of this flavor: Windows_SM56_6.12.07_DFV. I don't know if it works or not with the Apple variant; I don't have the requisite hardware for testing handy. (I may update this when I do... or not.)

Alternatively, one can beat the Windows XP driver out of Apple the hard way. To wit, download Bootcamp 1.1.2, which in theory binds you to this license and says you can "use the Apple Software on a single Apple-labeled computer for evaluation purposes only". I am NOT a lawyer, but I feel that selling the modem and providing the driver to use it under Windows only if you use a Macintosh would constitute an unlawful instance of "tying" under Anti-trust law; since I only want my damn modem driver, I plan to ignore that, and I hope Apple's lawyers go fsck their hard disks.

Any OS X computer can open the BootCamp1.1.2.dmg disk image; inside, you will find the "Install Boot Camp Assistant.mpkg"; inside that package's Contents/Resources folder, you will find the BootCampAssistant.pkg; and in the Contents folder of that, a gzipped pax archive named (in the traditional imaginative computer geek fashion) "Archive.pax.gz". Using the command line "gunzip" and "pax" tools, one may beat out from the contained "Applications/Utilities" folder the "Boot Camp". Inside of that Application's "Contents/Resources" folder one finds the "DiskImage.dmg", which the assistant (if run) burns to CD. That CD (or the disk image itself) has a couple programs, one of which is "Install Macintosh Drivers for Windows XP.exe".

With that, you can head over to a Windows box. Running that program will (at least briefly) create "Macintosh Drivers for Windows XP.msi", probably in somewhere like %HOMEPATH%\"Local Settings\Temp\_is6E\" or something. I'd recommend renaming the file to something shorter, just to make life easier. Next, you can extract from this .msi file (using something like Qwerty-MSI, if the evidently more popular Less MSIérables remains unavailable) the actual "Modem Driver" folder (somewhere like "SourceDir\program files\Macintosh Drivers for Windows XP 1.1.2" holds it). Voila — a drivers install... for XP only. Cosmetic examination suggests it's at least passing similar to the generic Motorola driver, but there's at least some minor differences, possibly because it's USB.

So, you can download the driver... buried within an MSI file, in an executable installer, in a disk image, in a subfolder of an .APP package, in a Gzipped Pax Archive, in a subfolder of a package, in a subfolder of a makepackage, in another disk image. Insert obvious "the bottom of a locked filing cabinet, in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the leopard'" jokes here.

I wonder if the driver works worth a damn....


Old Reading and Network Neutrality

abb3w abb3w writes  |  more than 7 years ago

So, one of the professors in the department I support is teaching her last semester before retirement, and has started giving away a lot of the extra books from her office. Being a biblophile, I've grabbed a few. One was Milton R. Wessel's 1974 "Freedom's Edge: the Computer Threat to Society." This, of course, was back when ARPANet had only around 50 IMPs, and contemporary with the end of the Watergate scandal.

Thus, like many efforts to look ahead, it's obviously dated. It was still in the days of Big Iron mainframes, with the idea of widespread real-time computer interaction a scarce-believable notion. Legislatures had made only incidental consideration of computers in the law. And yet, the book hints at the problems we face today: Identity theft, Network Neutrality, the Digital Divide, the effect of data aggregation on privacy, and the impact of digital reproduction on copyright. Looking back at looking forward is often helpful at seeing the present in a different light.

There's probably a few libraries that still have copies, and Amazon lists a couple used copies for sale at under $5 shipped. However, it's probably not going to reach a lot of people at this point, and Wessel did have some interesting insights. Being a lawyer of the Big Blue, Ma Bell, Organization Man age, he pictured a centrallized "Computer Utility" rather than the anarchic mass of the modern Internet. Despite the radical difference in design, the function is peculiarly similar. His attitude is also shows the pre-Nixon trust in elected officials that has since (certainly in Gen-X and later) largely shattered. He came up with some precepts on the lines of a "bill of rights" or "ten commandments" of computer usage over the course of the book... which I'll excerpt from the book here. The anecdotes and reasoning leading him to them make for interesting reading, but the precepts are most worth reconsidering from a modern perspective... both what they may have right, and what they have dead wrong. (The first and seventh seem relevant to the Network Neutrality debate.)

Computer Utility Rule 1: Access to a computer utility system shall not be unreasonably be withheld.

Computer Utility Rule 2: The information disclosed by a computer utility system seeking response must be such as to permit the respondent to provide an intelligent answer.

Computer Utility Rule 3: The infromation furnished by a computer utility system must be such as to serve the public interest.

Computer Utility Rule 4: A computer utility credit card shall not unreasonably be withheld from any individual.

The Data Bank: A mass data bank shall be permitted to operate only if the benefits associated with its operation outweigh the related risks.

Standards: Computer standards should be fixed by fairly selected and representative public organizations, so as to encourage maximum reasonable interchange among computer systems and between economic units, without unreasonably impeding technological development.

Public Computer Service: Public and quasipublic-sponsored computer services must be supplied on terms and conditions which result in their fair and equitable distribution to the public.

The Computer Economic Grid: The failure of a discrete unit of a computer economic grid must result in immediate disconnect from the grid without unreasonable harm to or interference with the rest of the system.

Human Response: The supplier of computer services to the public must afford the ultimate consumer reasonable human response and interaction, or be liable absolutely for error and harm done.

Computer Societal Impact: Government officials, professionals in and out of the computer industry, educators, and other leaders must study the impact of the computer on society, discuss and publish their efforts, and inform the public of their views.

Public Understanding Rule 1: Laymen must not hesitate to ask questions of computer professionals because they consider the computer too complex, or are reluctant to disclose their ignorance.

Public Understanding Rule 2: Computer professionals must answer lay questions in terms which are understandable to laymen.

Some of the battles these are intended to fight can now be regarded as laughably lost. (One of his "public interest" concerns in rule three was the need to regulate "certain excesses of slang and sex" as with TV.) However, they aren't a bad building block in the discussion of how the Internet should be made to work.


Time to make a few enemies...

abb3w abb3w writes  |  more than 8 years ago I ranted about Islam in the Volokh conspiracy comments. It's related to a bigger idea (not focused on Islam) I'm working on, but don't have quite right, so I'm flagging it in my /. journal. It's proving hard to flesh out the details running between economics, evolution, bonobos, and ideology.


This is better than my usual....

abb3w abb3w writes  |  more than 9 years ago I'm not an economist, nor a mathematician. However, over the years I've been exposed to more mathematics than most who didn't major in pure math gets; and after taking ECON 201 from a very eloquent (if mindbogglingly right-wing) professor, I think I can see some of the mathematical implications of the Law of Supply and Demand better than the average twit.

I went off on some aspects of the economics of iTunes here, and made additional followups to various responses. I think I made more sense than usual... enough that I want to bookmark it with a journal entry, so it doesn't vanish once past the 24 comment threshold.


I have fans?

abb3w abb3w writes  |  more than 10 years ago Umm... hi there, then. Glad you evidently enjoy my frumious burbling. Don't look for much in this journal, though....

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