Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Science! vs Science

Back to Evolution vs. Creationism.

Today a Pennsylvania court decided against Intelligent Design being taught in schools as it was found not to be a science, but a thinly glazed-over version of Creationism, which being religious, should not be taught.

Some quotes: From Christian Science Monitor

    In the end, one of the most prominent intellectual defenders of intelligent design, Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe, conceded that a definition of "science" that included it might also include astrology.

    Thus in the end Judge Jones ruled on the viability of the assertion itself.

    "In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether [intelligent design] is science. We have concluded it is not," he wrote in his opinion.

Use the link in the title to see other articles from Google News.

Is this an important victory for Evolutionists? The key argument against ID being a science is its lack of falsifiabiltity. Which is a fun word to type and even more fun to try to say. What are scientific alternatives are there to evolution? Is Intelligent Design really Creationism?

As a final note, ID supporters have been banding about the words 'activist judge' again in this context. While I think we can all agree that upholding the current precedent is hardly activism, does the basis of the decision - that ID is not science - go beyond the jurisdiction of the court?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Thorstein Veblen and ripped jeans

I was pondering on the concept of pre-ripped clothing, and stylings that (generally) would lead an outsider to believe that the wearer was homeless. My mind fell upon an old book that I had mused upon: Thorstein Veblen's- The Theory of the Leisure Class.

In it he speaks on the "leisure class" (here synonymous with upper class) and its tendency to go over the top, culturally, in proving that it is, in fact, very well-off. My favorite example is when Veblen speaks on the economics of the corset. Loosely, he says that the corset is designed to physically destroy the person who wears it, therefore proving for all to see that the wearer is in fact, SO rich that they can afford to denigrate their body making it a less useful tool (in the sociological sense).

I wondered then, if ripped jeans and the high fashion of making oneself look homeless might be along the same vein. In this instance, the person is not physically destroying themself, but socially. The thought process might go: I am so well-off/popular I can overpay for these clothes, and look like a hobo without suffering negative consequences in my high-class social circle.

Granted neither in Veblen's time, nor now, are these thoughts/actions conscious. Isn't wonderful to know that our fashion sense has evolved from physically harming ourselves to only attempting to harm ourselves on a social level?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Economics of Sexuality

The freakonomist has struck again. His latest article in the New York Times is on a topic we've hotly debated before: is human sexuality biologically determined?

In the article, Levitt and Dubner discuss a paper by Andy Francis. The paper might be more fulfilling for the hardcore among you.

The paper reacts to some interesting correlations. Apparently, while homosexual males are more likely to have a friend with AIDS, they are far less likely to have a relative with AIDS. For homosexual females, these correlations flip. If the data holds, what conclusions can be drawn?

Francis thinks this provides strong evidence that biology is not the sole determinant of sexual identity. If fear of AIDS is playing a role in determining sexual identity, other seemingly innocuous costs and benefits might be too.

From the abstract:

People who have a relative with AIDS, on average, have more knowledge, awareness, and fear of AIDS than those who do not. ...I find that AIDS causes people to shift from less safe sexual activities to safer ones. I find that AIDS [awareness] causes men to shift from homosexual to heterosexual behavior, desire, and identity, whereas AIDS [awareness] causes women to shift from heterosexual to homosexual desire. Neither genetic nor hormonal theories of sexual orientation can explain these findings. Therefore, biology is not the sole determinant of sexual behavior, desire, and identity.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Humanity's Worst Invention

The Ecologist has an annual essay contest, this year's asks, "What is Humanity's Worst Invention?"

Fingerless mittens is the first thing that came to my mind, but they're probably thinking of something more like the atomic bomb.

Comments required.

Thanks, Boing Boing!