Light blogging for a while

Workout notes: started late due to watching Ohio State beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
So I ran 5.1 miles in 53:28; it was pretty running weather (right around freezing and sunny) for this time of year in Peoria, IL. This decent weather won’t last long.

It is busy season; I am bleary eyed from reading job applications. That will continue through next week. I hope to get some time to work on some mathematical ideas and make headway on them; I have two, in particular.

So, I won’t be blogging much, aside from a game report or two. I’ve got one live football game left. 🙂

Basketball Our women’s team has 11 players: 6 Freshmen, 2 sophomores, 2 juniors, 1 senior. We usually start 3-4 underclassmen. Hence, it has been a painful experience; they Bradley women lost to Northern Iowa 70-51. Hopefully, the young players will grow into it as the season goes along and they learn by their “baptism of fire”.

Religion and society

All too often you hear nonsense like this:

Uh, there are many societies that are far more secular than ours that have far less social pathology. There is a positive correlation between the religiosity of a country and how violent it is.

More here.

And, no, science isn’t proving religion or “the existence of god” (of any kind). In fact, scientists are far LESS religious than the public at large.


January 3, 2015 Posted by | Personal Issues, running | , | Leave a comment

Some education/academia articles

Paul Krugman: reviews a book called Seven Bad Ideas by Jeff Madrick. The idea:

In “Seven Bad Ideas: How Mainstream Economists Have Damaged America and the World,” Jeff Madrick — a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine and a frequent writer on matters economic — argues that the professional failures since 2008 didn’t come out of the blue but were rooted in decades of intellectual malfeasance.

As a practicing and, I’d claim, mainstream economist myself, I’m tempted to quibble. How “mainstream,” really, are the bad ideas he attacks? How much of the problem is bad economic ideas per se as opposed to economists who have proved all too ready to drop their own models — in effect, reject their own ideas — when their models conflict with their political leanings? And was it the ideas of economists or the prejudices of politicians that led to so much bad policy? […]

Such quibbles aside, “Seven Bad Ideas” tells us an important and broadly accurate story about what went wrong. Economists presented as reality an idealized vision of free markets, dressed up in fancy math that gave it a false appearance of rigor. As a result, the world was unprepared when markets went bad. Economic ideas, declared John Maynard Keynes, are “dangerous for good or evil.” And in recent years, sad to say, evil has had the upper hand.

Speaking of ideas: are we becoming afraid to make our students uncomfortable? I know what I read in the media, but I am not sure as to how accurate it is.

Note: I am not saying that students should be taught “all points of view”; some ideas have been shown to be crackpot (e. g. creationism). They shouldn’t be taught as if they are viable ideas.

Now speaking of science and religion Biologist David Barash had an article in the New York Times about the talk he has with his classes at a public university:

And that’s where The Talk comes in. It’s irresponsible to teach biology without evolution, and yet many students worry about reconciling their beliefs with evolutionary science. Just as many Americans don’t grasp the fact that evolution is not merely a “theory,” but the underpinning of all biological science, a substantial minority of my students are troubled to discover that their beliefs conflict with the course material.

Until recently, I had pretty much ignored such discomfort, assuming that it was their problem, not mine. Teaching biology without evolution would be like teaching chemistry without molecules, or physics without mass and energy. But instead of students’ growing more comfortable with the tension between evolution and religion over time, the opposite seems to have happened. Thus, The Talk.

There are a few ways to talk about evolution and religion, I begin. [..]

I CONCLUDE The Talk by saying that, although they don’t have to discard their religion in order to inform themselves about biology (or even to pass my course), if they insist on retaining and respecting both, they will have to undertake some challenging mental gymnastic routines. And while I respect their beliefs, the entire point of The Talk is to make clear that, at least for this biologist, it is no longer acceptable for science to be the one doing those routines, as Professor Gould and noma have insisted we do.

I recommend reading the entire article. I especially like Biology Professor Jerry Coyne’s critique of it:

As I mentioned two posts ago, David Barash, a biologist at the University of Washington who works on animal behavior and evolution, has a post in today’s New York Times, “God, Darwin, and my college biology class.” It’s basically an argument for the incompatibility of science and religion, and I like it a lot, not the least because I agree with him 100%.

But there’s one thing about his piece that bothers me: Barash’s article is about how he tells his animal behavior class that science and religion are incompatible. In other words, he’s making theological arguments at a public university. […]

But in fact, and this is my beef (a small one, like a filet mignon): Barash may not be accommodating science with religion, but he’s still discussing their relationship, and his view of their incompatibility—in a science class. I wouldn’t do that, especially in a public university. One could even make the argument that he’s skirting the First Amendment here, mixing government (a state university) and religion. After all, if Eric Hedin can’t tell his students in a Ball State University science class that biology and cosmology are compatible with belief in God, why is it okay to say that they’re incompatible with God?

I share Professor Coyne’s trepidation here.

September 30, 2014 Posted by | economics, education, evolution, religion, science | , | Leave a comment

Kenneth Miller at Bradley University

I was excited to see Kenneth Miller be invited to speak at Bradley University. He is a top flight scientist (biologist at Brown University) with a ton of peer reviewed publications (the only way you get tenure at a place like Brown) as well as some well respected biology text books. He was also an expert witness in “creationism/ID trials” in the United States; he was cross examined for 9 hours at the Dover trial. Here is an article about his testimony and the howls from the creationists over it.

Dr. Miller is an excellent speaker. About 80 percent of the talk was about science (why evolution isn’t some mere wild guess: how it makes testable claims and how these claims have passed the tests with flying colors). About 15-18 percent of the talk was about the creationism/ID failures (which included an excellent blurb about Neil Shubin’s work; I can recommend Shubin’s book Your Inner Fish without reservation). He talked about the anti-science culture of the United States and took shots at creationists, climate change deniers, anti-vaccination people and the anti-GMO woos.

He did spend, oh, maybe 3-5 minutes telling us that “science and faith” are compatible. The summary of his argument: “well the laws of nature came from somewhere or just were….if you believe the former you are a theist and if you believe the latter you are an atheist…but doing science is the same in either case.” He didn’t use those words of course, but his presentation on this topic took only slightly longer to hear than my summary did to read.

He did take questions and he did say that he did NOT like the “god acting through the uncertainty relation in QM” argument.

As far as whether his science has been compromised by his faith (he is a Roman Catholic), I’ll let you read Jerry Coyne’s stuff:


here and


My question is of a different variety. Dr. Miller claims that “science and faith” are compatible. Really? I suppose one can cook up a “faith” that is compatible with science, but I doubt if this would be recognized as “faith” by most believers in the Western world. Here is why I think this:

If he goes to mass, he says this at least once a week:

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
one in Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
(all bow their heads during the next three lines)
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he was born of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.

For our sake he was crucified
under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered, died, and was buried.
On the third day he rose again

in fulfillment of the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son
he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic
and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism
for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Everything that I have put in bold contradicts science, period.
So, when he says this, is he:

1. Allowing for “singular miracles” at which point the laws of science are suspended? That is, of course, incompatible with science.
2. Just speaking metaphorically, just to go along with tradition? If so, how is this consistent with Catholic Faith?
3. Or is this Sophisticated Theology™; perhaps the Gospels were intended for those with philosophy Ph. D.’s and not the masses?
4. Something I haven’t thought of? (I warmly welcome a response from anyone here).

Seriously, is “faith” sans supernatural things really “faith”? Can a believer reduce their deity to some sort of word salad and still call themselves a believer?

In this respect, I see his position as intellectually dishonest.

April 10, 2013 Posted by | evolution, religion, science | , , | Leave a comment