Flaming Telephone

(Note to people reading this in a future when they’ve grown up never using a telephone for voice communication with another human: we used to have a game where a message would be distorted by serial whispering, and we found this amusing.)

So apparently Thomas Nagel, who’s an honest-to-Cthulhu serious philosopher, published a book last year called Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False“.

Here’s what Brian Leiter and Michael Weisber wrote in their review in the Nation, on Oct. 3:

Nagel now enters the fray with a far-reaching broadside against Darwin and materialism worthy of the true-believing Plantinga (whom Nagel cites favorably). We suspect that philosophers—even philosophers sympathetic to some of Nagel’s concerns—will be disappointed by the actual quality of the argument.

Here’s how Steven Pinker linked to Leiter and Weisber’s review, on Oct. 16:

Here’s how the New Republic reported Pinker’s tweet on Mar. 8 (five months after Pinker tweeted):

[…] Steven Pinker took to Twitter and haughtily ruled that it was “the shoddy reasoning of a once-great thinker.” Fuck him, he explained.

And here’s how Barry Arrington at Uncommon Descent links to the New Republic, today:

The New Republic reports that Pinker has taken to cyberspace to stir up the Darwinist mob against Nagel. Every whiff of heresy against the true faith must be ruthlessly stamped out. Torquemada had his Auto-da-fé. Pinker has his Twitter account.

With journamalism of this caliber, I wouldn’t be surprised if UD responded to this post by saying that I set babies on fire. After eating them.

But remember: it’s the atheists and Darwiniacs who are “shrill” and “strident”.


Barry Arrington’s
ID FAQ question 2
isn’t much better than
question 1.

2] No Real Scientists Take Intelligent Design Seriously

Yes, they do. For simple instance, in telecommunications work, we start by distinguishing the intelligent signal from the naturally occurring noise that tends to garble it.

One obvious problem with this is that in telecommunications, we know
what signal is (whatever the customer wants to send) and what noise is
(anything that changes the signal between the sender and the

The existence of a signal is not in doubt: people pay telecoms good
money to send it, and get upset when their signals aren’t sent
reliably. We also know that people exist, and what sorts of signals
they tend to send (speech, email, streaming audio and video, etc.),
when, and why.

“Noise”, in telecommunications and signal processing, is by definition
anything that changes the original signal at the receiver. If I call
my mom on the phone and say “Hello” but she hears static crackling,
that’s noise. If I say “hello” but she hears “oh hell”, that’s noise.
But if I call a friend and send a series of high-pitched shrieks with
my acoustic modem, but he gets a Vivaldi concerto, that’s still noise:
I’m paying the phone company good money to send high-pitched shrieks,
dammit, and that’s what I want to arrive at the other end.

cdesign proponentsists
(hey, there’s another good example of information being garbled), on
the other hand, want to use a recieved message (the human genome, or
bacterial flagella, or mousetraps, or whatever) to try to infer the
existence of an original signal, a designer. At the same time, since
they don’t want to admit that the designer is the God of the Bible,
they play coy and refuse to ascribe any properties to the designer.

I’ve seen a variant of the telecommunications analogy, in which IDists
pointed to archeologists trying to figure out whether a given rock was
used as a tool by prehistoric humans, or was broken and scratched by
natural (non-human) processes. But again, this is exactly backward:
archeologists not only can assume that humans existed 10,000 years
ago, but know a lot about their probable motivations (food, sex,
companionship, worship, etc.) and their limitations (any hypothesis
that involves people having three arms, for instance, is going to get
shot down pretty quickly).

IDists have none of that. They’re trying to prove magic, so they have
to use this sort of smoke and mirrors.