Wednesday, November 30, 2005

*A more serious thought experiment*

For the benefit of the new/casual reader or the reader who suddenly decides to return to reading this blog after a long long hiatus, here's a warm hello. But for my more regular readers, it should come as no surprise that I'm against the death penalty on a number of grounds. Click here for a more extensive treatment.

So it sort of pains me when the rationale I see people giving for why Nyugen should be hanging being a one liner that states that we should not make exceptions for foreigners and not locals. I hope they mean that we should also take steps to end the use of the death penalty (and not just mandatory sentencing with reform of the criminal system and due process) for all. The alternative is akin to saying that we should not end the use of torture because the precedent case is that of a foreigner being tortured and not a local.

Now, I have successfully debated in favour of the use of torture warrants if certain qualifications (no permament disfiguring, scaring, disability and a warrent to be sought prior to such interrogation methods and it was not to be used as a confessional tool) were made and only in the most extreme of situation i.e. the ticking time-bomb situation. The rationale we gave was that the premise of Human Rights was that of Life itself, that Lives were at stake, that torture would not lead to a loss of life but merely pain, that pain was a more faster and more effective method of interrogation than gaining their trust, and torture (by strict definition) was going on anyway so the use of this system would actually monitor and ensure no egregious breaches.

That's great in theory, but I cannot shake off the lingering fear of the tremendous potential for abuse.

But the thought experiment that I wish to make today is this. Imagine a Singapore where the status quo was the usage of torture or the execution of juveniles and the sort of debate that would ensue if Nyugen had been in a case involving the above. For some references, check out the attacks on the US Supreme Court that 'dared' to use international law to back a Constitutional Ban on the execution of juveniles (it used to be that individual states would decide and implement). I can only wonder if our adherence to the law is only because it is the status quo.



*Too sleepy to update*

Went to bed at 3.30 a.m. this morning to finish reading season 7 of Will & Grace. Woke up at 9.15 a.m. and went ot visit dentist with some trepidition. Without going too much into details, it transpired all I needed was scaling and polishing. Had lunch with Her and her friend M at the Munchy Monkey. Here was a little exchange:

CL: (reading from magazine, New Man) How to get laid in one night.
S: Uhhuh, right.
M: (Reading the article from the other side, a sidebar on how going with a female increases the attractiveness of the male with her) That's so not true. I don't approach attached males.
CL: (pointing towards another sidebar) That's because you're not one of the 20% of females who will apparently put out on the first night which is what they're targetting.
S: Gee. Between the fact that I'm a debater, a law student, (holds up ring finger) wear this. The only way I could conceivably be more of a conversation stopper or hated is if I'm a tax lawyer working for the IRAS.

And it was off to HC for debate. Personal introduction to the juniors, "Hi I'm your great-great-great-great-great-grandsenior. That's five greats and one grand. Nevermind actually I'm just grand."



Tuesday, November 29, 2005

*Creationism Redux*

Dr. (M.D.) Loke was interested enough to post a reply to my letter and reply to his letter.

Anyway, it is made in the comment section of the blog entry marked reply above so here it is in full. Letter sections in italics. Personal comment prefixed by a >. I have been told that the language I have used might be a little strong, but I feel that this is entirely justified if the accusations and arguments I make are valid. This is not me in full debate mode yet.

My basic general reply for now is as follows, what's your (scientific) alternative? Shooting holes at a scientific theory does not a new scientific theory make much less replaced.

As things stand, the criticisms are not as focused as they could be as I'm attempting rebuttals against all sorts of creationism including ID. And also the syntax used is a little wonky because I am addressing not just the physician but readers as well.

I read your letter " Creationists trying to pass off religious beliefs as scientific facts on the ST forum ", published on the ST forum , which I just realised is re-produced at your blog here, with some unwarranted anti-creationist comments. Now, there are errors in your letter which need to be pointed out.

> You're going to need to point out the unwarrented creationist comments. I don't read anything objectionable in mine. The language might be strong and tough but entirely justified.

In your letter you were concerned that my view was not balanced, because I cited websites which teaches "cargo-cult science". Perhaps you were unaware that I had indeed visited many evolutionist websites in the past, including the 'talk origins' website which you suggested , and the reason why I did not cite them is because I find the arguments there unconvincing.

> Your views are precisely not balanced because you did no cite them. I was providing the countervailing information. And now, why are they not convincing? As we shall come to see, the reason is that you have accepted a faith-based viewpoint, which distorts how you would wish to view the facts. This may be a perfectly justifiable theological approach but it is not a scientific one. I call them cargo cult science because they have all the trappings of science but no real science. Admittedly though, ID is even worse because it has no testable aspect much less mechanisms. But nevertheless, you may be entitled to your opinion but not the facts.

You were also perhaps unaware that my citation includes "Evolution -- A theory in crisis " which is written by Dr Michael Denton, who was an agnostic scientist and not even a Christian at all.

> Ah yes, should have done a tad more research. He's gone over to the ID side by the way. Apparently in his next book after "Evolution, A Theory in Crisis", in "Nature's Destiny", he starts criticising special creation. Anyone has the book handy? But my original point was that these books cannot really be considered as scientifically rigourous as a peer reviewed article and have been torn to shreds anyway. I don't honestly care if he's agnostic if he produces a book full of bad science, it's still bad science. Homeopathy anyone?

And it is not true that the religious presupposition of the 'Answers in Genesis' website necessarily detracts from the veracity of the arguments presented there with regards to origin of life and human evolution.

> Sure, but when this organisation states that it is "Upholding the Authority of the Bible from the Very First Verse and um "also desire to train others to develop a biblical worldview, and seek to expose the bankruptcy of evolutionary ideas, and its bedfellow, a "millions of years old" earth (and even older universe)." This is a classic case of shutting your eyes and going la-la-la everytime the data doesn't fit. Well that or double think.

After all , many scientists in the past were deeply committed Christians; Newton, in particular, intended his work in science to serve as an apologetic for his faith . Yet I am you will not question the veracity of Newton's laws of motion because of his religious presuppostions.

> Newton believed that God worked through Nature (more on the methodology of Naturalistic Materialism below) so no more supernatural forces i.e. purely natural forces. And it's interesting you would bring up Newton because I presuppose you would not disbelieve in Gravity but yet, it is also premised on the exact same methodology as is Evolution. So what exactly does Evolution conflict with? Again, I am going to deduce that it is your religious interpretation.
> But that's really besides the point is it? I am not simply doubting what they say because of their religion but their professed view of religion and the manner in which they set it at odds with Science. I'm talking more about Dr. Kenneth Miller (lead expert witness for the plaintiff in the Dover Trial) than Dr. Carl Wieland (Answers in Genesis). The science the creationist propound is directly taken from their narrow religious beliefs rather than where science and observation takes them. And even more to the point, there are no non-theistic motivated attacks on Evolution. Hare Krishnas in the Dover trial anyone?
> In fact, it is remarkable like those religious nuts who disbelief that germs cause diseases. No, in fact diseases cause germs and what causes disease? Demons.

You argued that my view is religious whereas macro-evolution is scientific, and there is a need to separate religion from science.

> Yes, Creationism is religion masqurading as science. And yes, there is a need to separate religion from science in so far as the methodology of science goes. No unreplicatable supernatural forces thank you, it doesn't help scientific research and progress.

Now I want to point out to you that my view belongs to exactly the same branch of scienfic inquiry as the theory of naturalistic macro-evolution.

> I still have no idea what your views are, but I'm betting Young Earth Creationism right now. I'm withhold comments on this point until I receive a reply as to what YOU believe.

We must note here that the issue does not lie within the branch of experimental science, because neither the macro-evolutionist explanation nor the Creationist explanation of what happened in the past can be confirmed in a lab.

> Yes it can. Wanna see peer reviewed articles of new species forming? FAQ with cites below. Especially if one accepts 'forensic science' and deductive logic.

The conflict between naturalistic macro-evolution and creationism legitimately lies within the branch of science which operates on principles similar to FORENSIC science. It is not "science versus religion", as many suppose, but rather which explanation for an event that has happened in the past is more probable. We are like detectives coming to the scene , looking at the life we see now and asking ourselves" which explanation is more reasonable ? " Did life comes from non- life naturalistically? Did man come from apes?"

> Okay, problems here. 1. What is science? Science by default restricts itself to a METHODOLOGY of naturalistic materialism not as a philosophy but because it works. After all, why bother with science if "Poof! X deity did it by a supernatural mechanism which we cannot replicate" if so, science will grind to a standstill because they is now no need to figure out how rain falls or DNA replicates itself because hey "X did it!". The way to reconcile this and whatever Deity one believes in is to say that God(essess) set the world and naturalism in motion and move on from there.
> 2. Where it comes to the creationist, it is Science v Religion because they try to fit their 'science' into their 'religion'. To be fair I don't have a problem, because speaking as a Buddhist, the Dalai Lama said that should science and Buddhism conflict, Buddhism must change. This is entirely in line with the historical Buddha exhorting his followers to question and critically evaluate what is said, even by the Enlightened One.
> 3. In our daily life, we see no evidence of supernaturalism at all, much less depend on a miracle to get you out of a traffic jam or as an excuse to an offence. Therefore naturalism is an eminently reasonable methodological position to hold. There's this really long joke I could put here but the punchline is that a man tries to explain the underaged girl in his room by claiming that he kissed a magic frog.
> 4. Life need not have arisen naturalistically for Evolution to work. Hammie might have created the the primodial soup (or simply set forth the Universe etc.) and Mutation and Natural selection took over from there.
> 5. Man did not come from apes. We share a common ancestor.

"Science" , says Linus Pauling , "is the search for the truth," and we are concerned about the truth here. And the truth of the matter is that intelligence as a causal agency for life and man should not be ruled out a priori.

> I can accept this, we should seek the truth through Science or as far as it can be truth given the constrains it puts on itself (logical ones I think but religions says otherwise).
> But as the saying goes, prove it. Or more realistically good physician, create a falsifiably theory that explains the data better and has a stronger explanatory power than what we already have. BTW, remember SETI? When the Nebula pulses were first monitored, they considered Intelligence ALONGSIDE other hypothesis, in the end on the basis of observation and evidence, they rejected it.
> Science merely explains the How, it does not try to answer the Why. That is how, many reconcile their faith with science. Here's a good PandasThumb's post entitled What was God Thinking? Science can't tell.. It hits on the sterility of ID as well.

In fact it should at least be considered as a possibility, as the principles of forensic science clearly recognises events caused by intelligence apart from events caused naturalistically.

> Animal or human intelligence. Not supernatural ones. We can detect signs of natural intelligence because we are can see signs of it and we recognise it from experience? But how does one detect supernatural intelligence? ID pretends to solve it but gee....can we say Dover Trial? It's a classic god of the gaps arguement i.e. we can't explain it therefore it must be a supernatural reason. Rain gods, thunder gods you get the idea.
> And um, yes, Science operates in a forensic fashion and guess what? They never conclude that God did it. The edifice of an omnipotent God means that it is unfalsifiable. In a similar vein, it's like saying Hammie the invisible pink psychic hamster exists and is invisible because I cannot see him.

And that is how murders are determined apart from naturalistic accidents.

> Wha? Do we have supernatural murders I'm not aware of? Seriously though, it is still a naturalistic cause. How would one detect a supernatural murder? That's the real issue. Human agency is relatively easy to detect.

And just as a forensic scientist will reasonably believe that a code found on the wall to be caused by an intelligent agency, it is more reasonable to believe that the origin of the first genetic code is caused by an intelligence rather than by naturalistic processes.

> Yes and no. An intelligent agent perhaps. But a forsenic scientist does not go leaping to believing that a supernatural agency wrote the code. Again the genetic bit is an argument from ignorance and another god of the gaps fallacy. Yes, if it can be explained by a natural phenomena, it's a better explanation than a supernatural one.
> More to the point, pray tell us how we can detect this evidence of supernatural intelligence or Intelligent Design in nature? Especially if we don't know who the Intelligent Designer is and what kind of motive we can imput to it. Simply saying it 'looks designed' is not going to cut it.

No doubt the explanation that the causal agency for life and man is an intelligent agency will have religious connotations, but this connotation does not imply that the explanation itself is not true.

> True enough and then have fun 'proving' that it's your Deity construct that is that intelligence and not the other Deity constructs much less Little Green Men. But let's get back to the issue here, you attempt to debunk evolution. So exactly which part of evolution do you disbelieve? That I think will tell us what you believe. Again, I COULD accept that an intelligent agency set forth the universe in motion (whether aliens or X), but then evolution gives us a damn good explanation of what happened and prediction of what happens next.

An observation of the complexity of life and a reflection on how it can originate is indeed inconsistent with naturalistic explanations.

> Nope. Again, an argument from ignorance and a god of the gaps fallacy. I feel fairly certain that you will not be able to prove this or will do so on an unfalsifiable basis. But more to your point, there are many various form of intelligence that could do it and "there're many alternatives equally credible; we could've warped spontaneously into existence or maybe aliens seeded life or maybe our ancestors crossed an inter-dimensional gateway." (quoted from Gabriel) Aside: when this current universe dies down, we could attempt the last bit to survive.

Even one of the leading atheists and naturalist in the world, Anthony Flew, while still a non-Christian because of his misconceptions about Christianity, has now repudiated his long-cherished atheism as he now believed that an intelligence must have been involved in the origin of life, because that is the only explanation that is consistent with observation. As Plato had said, " We must follow where the evidence leads".

> He's a deist. He's one former atheist. Do we really want to start bring up past creationists and christians who are no longer so? We can start on this blog or Young Republic. Egro, it demonstrates nothing, it's fundamentally an appeal to wrong authority. Furthermore, he doesn't believe in special creation like creationist do. Sorry physician, the evidence does not lead there.
> And oh, your religious prejudices are showing. We could have a discussion on whether deism makes sense or even Christianity but what's the point if it's on an unfalsiable basis as all religions are? That's the crucial difference between a scientific theory and a religious one. Unfalsifiability.
> Aside: Read the Koran for how it deals with issue of Jesus's supposed cruxifiction. That's what I mean by unfalsifiable, an omniscience, omnipotent and omnibenevolent god could do anything and everything and still make 'logical' sense.

You wrote " there is no convincing alternative to evolution, and disproving evolution does not prove any other theory." But as mentioned above, intelligence as the cause of events must be considered as an alternative.

> Okay, can we just establish, he who asserts must prove with some kind of substantiation? How do we observe this intelligence, how can it be made into a theory and tested? 'Intelligence' as an alternative is about as good a SCIENTIFIC THEORY as Hammie, the invisible pink psychic hamster who created the world last Thursday with the appearance of age. It's might be AN explaination but not a scientific alternative. If science can explain it without the aid of the supernatural and 'Intelligence', that's what it by the bounds of its methodology will do.
> Once again, Evolution (and science) makes no comment about (supernatural) Intelligence because well, a supernatural could do what the hell it wants. Like in the above case of Hammie. It's not good science, it's sterile, it's pointless, it's religion by stealth, bad theology and we could go on further if you want to push ID.

Also, the arguments use to disprove evolution are equally valid arguments against all undirected processes . Now we must note that if it is not an undirected process, then it must be a directed process i.e. it must be Intelligent Design.

> See rebuttals above.

You attempted to discredit my citation of the statement by 100 scientists who oppose evolution( by saying that "It simply expresses doubt about Darwinism " and not the modern understanding of evolution with its knowledge of genetics . I find your discreditation unjustified. The statement clearly states "WE ARE SKEPTICAL OF CLAIMS FOR THE ABILITY OF RANDOM MUTATION AND NATURAL SELECTION TO ACCOUNT FOR THE COMPLEXITY OF LIFE", which IS the modern understanding of evolution with its knowledge of genetics , as the terms "random mutation" implies.

> Wow. I am also skeptical as well. There’s the whole debate over punctured equilibria v. gradualism, how did sexual reproduction win out over asexual one and once again, inheritance of genes. I still stand by the claim that scientists can sign this in good faith. I am skeptical too, which is why I think that ahem "Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged", which is what comes after the sentence above. Without it, science grinds to a standstill.

The context of the statement , which is to refute the PBS statement that “all known scientific evidence supports [Darwinian] evolution” as does “virtually every reputable scientist in the world.”, clearly implies that the statement is meant to refute the modern understanding of evolution which the spokesperson for the PBS evolution series claims all the scientists in the world now support . Your claim that " any scientist could in good faith sign that statement" , which imply that even scientists supporting the modern understanding of macro-evolution could in good faith sign it , is therefore clearly false ; the scientists behind the PBS evolution series certainly will not sign it!

> Yes, they would NOT sign it because it will be misused to give credence to the Discovery Institutes claims that increasing numbers of scientist doubt 'Darwinism'.
> Let us contrast this with the statement put out in Project Steve, "Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to "intelligent design," to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools." Now that is a statement which cannot go the other way.

As for your citation of 'Project Steve', it is irrelevant as you yourself said "numbers don't matter in a scientific debate but strength of theories and evidence do." I agree with you regarding this point. The reason why I cite the 100 scientists (which included biologists) was not to show that there are more scientists in the world who do not believe in evolution, but rather to show the fact that it is not true that all prominent scientists in the world believe in naturalistic macro-evolution;

> Let's play a game called appeal to proper authority. Who do I 'trust' more and on what basis? It’s called credentials and credibility. Other than the fact that most of the people on the DI list are not evolutionary biologist (there is a difference), more scientist accept Evolution not because their religion tells them to do so but because of the evidence. It's a matter of who knows more and is more familiar with the material.

Your statements that "it is such a cornerstone of science and so convincing is the theory that scientists have effectively accepted it as a fact", which seems to imply that all scientists believe in macro-evolution, and "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution", which seem to imply that someone has to believe in macro-evolution to be a biologist, are therefore clearly false.

> Hmmmm. If a small minority signs a meaningless statement based upon fallacious logic and atrocious science, I'm suppose to believe them? The statements still stands. Better still, do a quick search of medicial and scientific journals and see how useful creationism or ID has been to science. If only a hundred are 'skeptical' about Darwinism, that makes the overwhelming vast majority (like 99.999999...%) who accept Evolution. The debate is over, really.

As for the strength of evidence against naturalistic macro-evolution, this can be found in the sources that I cited in the first letter, and this strength of evidence is the cause of the dissent for naturalistic macro-evolution by the 100 scientists and others.

> It's not a real dissent and it's more a problem of their narrow fundamentalist faith than the evidence troubling them. And then twisting the science to prove their 'science'. To be fair, at least the Creationist (excluding ID) have a theory. Again, for anyone interested in the science, check out the original links I provided to TalkOrigins and PandasThumb.

I want to highlight again that it is not micro-evolution (the process of random mutation and natural selection ) that I am objecting to. This process is a proven fact and all scientists accept it. It is naturalistic macro-evolution that I am objecting to. The problem is that many people confound micro-evolution and macro-evolution together, and that is why they come up with assertions such as yours that "every experiment that's done simply verifies the strength of the modern theory of evolution" when ONLY micro-evolution is proven. It is wrong to confound micro-evolution and macro-evolution because it is a logical fallacy to say that micro-evolution neccesarily implies macro-evolution.

> This 'microevolution' v 'macroevolution' thing was created to get round the wealth of evidence for so-called microevolution. I suspect that eventually this line of argument will die out like the others.
> How exactly is the extrapolation improper? But more to the point for examples of observed speciation, click here. This argument is simply disingenuous.

You asked " If micro-evolution can occur, where's the magic barrier that prevents it from becoming macro-evolution?" But the issue here is not about whether macro-evolution can or cannot happen, but "Did it happen"?

> See above. And yes, can I presume by your argument of whether 'did it happen' to be another bit of positive proof that you believe your deity created all the 'kinds' (baramin) of animals and the diversity of species today is due to 'micro-evolution' of those 'kinds'? Oh, how does one define kind and how many were there? And how did Moses keep all of them alive in the Ark without constant miracles that was not reflected in the Bible?

Sure, there can be changes in gene pool , as you mentioned , but does the orgin of the organisms (such as humans) that we see today indeed resulted from gene pool changes of simpler life forms (such as apes), which ultimately come naturalistically from non-life?" The process from molecules to life to simple organisms to apes to man is so complex that scientists had postulated that millions of years is necessary for even the most basic DNA and RNA to form.

> Changes in gene pool over BILLIONS OF YEARS to create the 'complexity' and diversity of life today seems about right. That way, I don't need to bring in and reconcile a perfect supernatural agency and mass extinction.
> More importantly, am I correct to take it that you are a young earth creationist who doesn't believe that the Earth is more than 6000-10000 years of age? Because there has been billions of years passed since the year was formed. But if you read Dr. Kenneth Miller’s transcript in the Dover Trial, he describes the process of change between ‘ape’ and ‘man’.

And the protective environment of the modern day laboratory was obviously not available for the first life to form naturalistically. Indeed, unpredictable destructive forces can happen all the time in the harsh, unprotected natural environment. A volcano eruption , for example , would have instantaneously wipe out all traces of life in the "warm little pond" which had painstakingly taken millions of years to form. And somehow all the steps along the process from molecules to man must be protected from destructive forces and many possible detrimental chemical reactions , for millions of years! Is it reasonable to believe that all these had happened naturalistically?

> Argument from increduity. Sorry, I can't believe that people can be mean to each other either but that doesn't mean that people are not mean to one another. More to the point, the first forms of life as you put it would likely have been capable of living in that hostile environment. Or maybe they evolved outside of that hostile environment. Anyone with a better knowledge of this area? rrrrrrrm has an answer in the above post.

You argued that different organisms sharing the same building block of life is positive proof of common descent. This argument is fallacious as sharing the same building blocks of life could also be seen as positive proof that they are the works of a Common Designer, just like Microsoft Word and Microsoft Powerpoint having millions of similarities is an indication that the same guys are writing the programs. Using "the same building block" argument therefore does not prove common descent over special creation; it is a logical fallacy which is typical of pro-macro-evolutionist arguments found in evolutionists' literature such as the talkorigin website.

> I shave my data with Occam's Razor. What do you do? Instead of postulating a supernatural agency on that basis, the more likely and naturalistic explaination is that of common descend. But it's not just common building blocks but chromosome change which indicates common descend, and also for a much more extensive treatment click here for the entire molecular evidence for Macroevolution. And yeah, fossil records anyone? Whales have hind legs etc., the existence of vestigal organs and junk DNA. Read the FAQ.
> On a more fundamental level, Science limits itself to naturalistic materialism as a methodology and fromthe above it makes more sense to believe that we once came from complex hydrocarbons. Furthermore, as you conceeded, there is a place for a Intelligent Designer...but right at the beginning as opposed to special creation of each and every single 'kind'.
> And once more, show me your theory of special creation and explain why it is more convincing than Evolution. Just because you want your version of your deity to exist does not make it true. So facts, data and evidence, and we'll use the forensic science you talked about.
> Finally, TalkOrigin uses proper science. Creationism makes use of 'science'.

argued that "how RNA and DNA came about is not an issue because they do not detract from evolution". But theories on how the RNA and DNA came about are often considered in literature supporting macro-evolution. In fact , molecules-to-life evolution was shown in the last part of the documentary "A Species Odyssey", and that is why I have to mention it to show that it is not a proven fact as much as ape-to-human evolution is not a proven fact. The origin of life issue is relevant to any discussion about origin of species.

> Well, firstly, it’s irrelevant to Evolution. Just because they are considered doesn't make it a substantial part of the literature supporting macro-evolution (if they even are). You're actually conflating two different issues here, one on the origin of life and the other on how life began from primordial soup. One could as well believe in the Judeo-Christian story of Genesis as one could believe that the Judeo-Christian god put created the primordial soup from which the first signs of life developed.
> Evolution is not simply chance, to say this ignores natural selection, which is the direct opposite of chance one might say. To quote TalkOrigins' "Five Major Misconception of Evolution", "Nor is abiogenesis (the origin of the first life) due purely to chance. Atoms and molecules arrange themselves not purely randomly, but according to their chemical properties. In the case of carbon atoms especially, this means complex molecules are sure to form spontaneously, and these complex molecules can influence each other to create even more complex molecules. Once a molecule forms that is approximately self-replicating, natural selection will guide the formation of ever more efficient replicators. The first self-replicating object didn't need to be as complex as a modern cell or even a strand of DNA. Some self-replicating molecules are not really all that complex (as organic molecules go)."

If you would concede that an intelligence is involved in the origination of DNA, then that would explain to you why different organism share the same building block of life (ie they have a common designer ), and your positive proof of common descent would vanish.

> Nope. Why would I have to? I could easier decide that God(desses) created DNA/RNA or any simpler complex carbon molecule and then they decided to leave it to Evolution. Then every single species can trace their origins to a common ancestor and every organism to those complex carbon compounds. That's sound EXACTLY like, wait it IS Evolution!

You argued , with regards to missing links in the fossil records , that "every time science comes up with another missing link, the creationists claim that there are now two gaps" . But that is not the claim in the sources which I cited in my first letter.

> Actually I wasn't responding to you at all. It was a pre-emptive argument and an illustration of the repeated claims over the years that there are no transitional fossils.

Rather, what is argued there is that the "missing links" which evolutionist comes up with are not convincing links at all. You argued: " Perhaps if he ( Andrew ) were an evolutionary biologist specialising in hominid evolution, his authority could be accepted." It is interesting that you yourself accepted the authority of the author of the's website on Fossil Hominds which you cited , when the author does not even have any qualification related to evolutionary biology ( see! Your argument against my qualifications is therefore inconsistent.

> Misrepresentation. My full argument was, if you don't provide any form of proof as to whether it is convincing except your own authority, I'm not going to accept it unless you were an authority on this matter. But how about this, the author of the FAQ you criticise? He provides citations to proper peer review articles. You evidently decided it was unconvincing.
> More to the point, if the fossils show us becoming less and less ape-like and more and more human-like, then Evolution is logical conclusion to draw.

Now one does not need to be an evolutionary biologist to point out the obvious logical fallacies of arguments used in support of macro-evolution, such as using common descent as a proof for macroevolution.

> What logical fallacies beyond the ones you proclaim? It is called logical extrapolation. If you have a better explanation you are more than welcome to provide it. And appeals to the supernatural don't count unless the theory is capable of being falsifiable. But without special creation, then the fact that we share IDENTICAL building blocks of life by deductive logic leads us to conclude that we evolved from the same origins. Creationism is a good example of non-experts wading in and pretending they know better than the real experts. Mostly because they come to the conclusion and try to fit the facts to match it.
> And this argument sounds exact like what some of those medical quacks would argue against the HIV/AIDS link.

Moreover, you should note that the views and sources which I cited do contain the opinion of paleoanthropologists, people specialising in the study of fossils, a field which form the basis for evolutionary biology. And paleoanthropologists themselves have admitted that their work in their field is highly subjective .For example, paleoanthropologist Misia Landau wrote that "many classic texts in the field were determined as much by traditional narrative frameworks as by material evidence" and that the themes "far exceed what can be studied from the fossils alone." (Narratives of Human Evolution ) . With regards to forming the narratives of evolution from fossils , paleoanthropologist Ian Tattersall admitted that the process is "both political and subjective " such that "paleoanthropology has the form but not the substance of science". And evolutionary biologist Clark Howell had conceded that " There is no encompassing theory of human evolution...Alas,there never really has been." (" Paleoanthropology and Preconception " Meike Contemporary issues in human evolution Memoir 21.)

> Anyone has the time, energy or patience to check out the references? I'm willing to bet that this is a case of quote mining, especially that of Ian Tattersall, who writes for TalkOrigins. And do you really want to play the numbers game again? I’m a law student and when we have competing authorities, we look at credentials and credibility.

You claimed that " the books that Dr Loke speaks of are not scientifc works or research ". I would like to ask you what is your definition of " scientific work ". If peer review is necessary to qualify as an scientific work, which you seems to imply, then Darwin's origin of species should not be considered as a scientific work, as it was never peer reviewed .

> I define it the same way any scientist defines it i.e. peer review. Peer review is necessary if I want to take it seriously as a piece of scientifically rigourous work, I think a good comparison by contrast is say Kevin Trudeau's book "Natural Cures they don't want you to know about" and something in Science or the Lancet (well there was the entire MMI-Autism fiasco but peer review was what pointed out the errors). And yes, as the institutions of science were still developing in that era, the book was not peer reviewed per se. HOWEVER, he wrote a whole series of essays, letters and articles which were read before the Royal Society in London and were subject to critique, criticism and defence i.e. peer review. And has stood the test of time. Every subsequent experiment and prediction demonstrated evolution. Darwin had that excuse, what do today's Creationist (in whatever form) have to say?

You argued that the books I mentioned have been "thoroughly discredited not just by scientists but also by theologians". I would like to ask you which theologian has given biblically-justified views against those books that I mentioned. Perhaps you would like to quote their arguments.

> Mea culpa. Sloppy writing, it should be discrediting of the notion of ID and Special Creation. Anyway, who said anything about Abrahamic religions? And why do I need to refer back to the Bible at any rate? But more to the point, here. It's mostly Religion v ID but if anyone wants the Creationist infighting, google it, off the top of my head, Literalism (as advocated by Answers in Genesis) in contrast to say Gap Creationist (who believe that the 'days' in Genesis ought to be read as gaps i.e. periods of large amounts of time). I like this particular post which talks about Conservative Christians disgusted with ID, here.

Though there are scientists who refused to acknowledge those books, the arguments they used in support of macroevolution over intelligent design (such as the "similarity in building blocks of life" argument, which I have refuted above) are not valid . Perhaps you would like to quote other arguments to support your view.

> Who are these scientist who refuse to acknowledge the books? The sheer amount of information out there that shreds these books is staggering. And they're by reputable scientist in the proper fields. Just google them in or Pandasthumb or TalkOrigin or TalkDesign or TalkReason.
> You haven't refuted it. You simply claim it's a logical fallacy and then ignore it. But you could always work your way down the 29+ evidence for Macroevolution in TalkOrigins. Or better still, how about pitting your knowledge with the real experts in the newsgroup? I’m just a law student who finds this whole thing interesting and has been following it since 1997.

Finally , you mentioned Dr Michael Behe's discrediting in the recent Dover trial . I would like to point out that Dr Behe's "discrediting" has to do with his definition of " theory " and "hypothesis" , but it has nothing to do with the actual arguments that he presented in support of the Intelligent Design explanation.

> My point is that ID is scientifically vacuous. By Dr Behe's definition, Astrology comes under the same category of scientific theory as his own ID. It doesn't purport to explain anything, predict anything much less tell us what mechanisms the Intelligent Designer is supposed to have used. So much for Irreducible Complexity when the flagellum is not irreducible complex (you can use 33 proteins instead of 40 that Dr. Behe claims) or even the blood clotting mechanism (dolphins lack a protein called Factor 11 I think). If you want discrediting, read the entire transcript. I know I did. Search for Behe on PandasThumb, the first post is entitled, "Behe Disproves Irreducible Complexity". You only need to read the transcript part really.

The issue here in this discussion is not about definitions regarding theory or hypothesis, but whether intelligent design or the BLIND process of naturalistic macro-evolution is a more reasonable explanation for the origin of the complexity of life and man.

> Again. Evolution not random chance. Do we need to go back to definition of Evolution. I don't believe in the supernatural, it might make my world colder, but it is a lot saner.
> Unless you can disprove that the world is billions of years old then Evolution works.

From what has been written above, we can see that naturalistic macro-evolution is not a proven fact of science, to say the least..

> It's a theory so strong as to be a fact. And definately not disproved by anything you have said thus far.

I hope you will re-think about your belief in naturalistic macro-evolution in light of what is written above.

> Thank you. You have just demonstrated that whatever you believe in is not science because science constrains itself to the natural and material. And let's just put it this way, you can hope all you want but I'm about as likely to be as persuaded to the reverse as you.

And now, here’s more stuff from Tomorrow.SG! to whet your appetite!.


I have sent off an email to Dr Loke asking him what he believes and in particular what his theory as an alternative to Evolution was. Hopefully, once I have it, I'll finally get a chance to compare the two theories side and side and demonstrate why despite all the hoo-haa about Evolution, it remains and it exists as the cornerstone of biology and much of other fields of science, check out "The Longest Running Falsehood in Creationism". In fact, curiously enough, Creationism itself has evolved as I would also expect ID to, again, click here.


Addendum to addendum: I have decided to post him a straight rebutal to his reply anyway, once he decides what he believes in, we can start examining his claims instead.

*Exams are finally over!*

And I have to rediscover the purpose to my life. One of my friends is going to play mapple story. Another is going to do World of Warcraft and yet another is going to play Football Manager 2005-6 (I have no idea what date). I have debates and a computer that can't play the latest games. Which is fine because my gaming reflexes have been so shot to hell and beyond that I lasted a total of a single minute in Doom 3.

So as I was pondering existantialist questions as to that purpose e.g. like where to, what next and how the hell does one define 'purpose' or whether we need one in the first place and in the absence of purpose what there is, and on positive and critical morality in general, when I receive a long long email from Dr Andrew Loke, the writer of this letter to which I wrote a reply letter and a reply. It is a reply to them and well, it's over at the comments section (the Blogger one on the right) at this post. Wish he left telling me what he believed in. But you'll get to catch my response soon.

So since I'm still working on a further reply, come back soon.



Sunday, November 27, 2005

*Addendum to the Andy Ho article*

From a Singapore Angle has updates including the link to Professor Michael Hor's article, "Singapore's Innovation to Due Process". And as a totally irrelevant side comment, the good professor is one of the few men I know would could actually pull off a bow-tie ensamble.

Wannabe Lawyer cuts through the entire article and asks the fundamental question, do we really want to be efficient at killing people? Efficiency is not an ends all and be all, though all too often it is made out to be locally.

The author does apologise for the lack of a fuller update. But he had 4 hours of sleep before having to trudge down to NTU to be at the briefing of the NTU Model UN. The reason he was there despite a company law exam on Tuesday is because the Sec-Gen of the MUN called him while he was still half=asleep at 10 a.m. 2 weeks back. The author has absolutely no idea what was said and what was promise and this I presumed will be held against me till the entire endeavour is over.

And if you any comments or posts or articles on this topic, just drop the URL or the comment in the comments box.


Friday, November 25, 2005

*Andy Ho Defends the Singapore Model*

In other news, Senior Writer Andy Ho defends the Singapore Model of Criminal System and Due Process. BUT what do the writers actually have to say and think as opposed to what Andy Ho simply quotes from them?

Dr Tai Heng Cheng wrote the article, "The Central Case Approach to Human Rights: It's universal application and the Singapore example". Its central thesis is that one should not use a binary approach (bivalent approach in Glenn's work on Legal Traditions in the World) but should adopt a 'central case' approach instead. What it means is that instead of simply saying whether rights have been violated or not (A or Not A), one should consider the possibility of having one's cake and eating it (like say eating half of it). Its a thesis about the fuzzy grey areas and through his 47 page article, he demonstrates well how it is possible to, on paper NOT violate rights while in actuality do so, and conversely how on paper, something might violate rights when it may not in practice do so.

I think it is very very safe to say that after reading both their works, Andy Ho might well be teethering on the edge of misrepresenting Dr Tai, or at least his conclusions. Here's a little taste of what Andy Ho DID NOT quote in his little gay/lesbian (what about the transgendered?) example.

So on the one hand Dr Tai says at document page 35 (which is what's reflected in the ST), "Whereas the binary approach simply concludes that homosexual rights are violated by the existence of homophobic laws, the central case recognizes that these laws are not generally enforced. The vast majority of homosexual acts between consenting adults in private are not prosecuted and police generally do not monitor the sexual proclivities of private citizens. Indeed, there are even public areas where gay men congregate with the intention of meeting other gay men for the purpose of sex. It is inconceivable that the police are unaware of these areas since they are advertised on the Internet. At least during the last three years, there have been no reported arrests or prosecutions of homosexuals who frequent these public areas.

But in the very NEXT paragraph, Dr Tai continues, "The true human rights concern in Singapore is the potential for these laws to be used by the government against homosexuals without warning and without transparency about the criteria for enforcement. For example, there were reports that police officers conducted an undercover operation in a private gay sauna in 2003 without any warning. The officers climbed over the walls of a private cubicle and witnessed two men engaging in fellatio. These men were arrested. No other sauna was apparently targeted, and there have been no further reports of undercover operations against these private clubs as of this writing. Although this strategy of selective and apparently arbitrary enforcement does not prevent all homosexual acts, it creates an insidious culture of fear among homosexuals."

*Mr Fluffy bangs out an ta da da tune on the electric keyboard*

Here's Andy's conclusion, "The Government, in actual practice, permits the gay community to flourish here. By accepting some gay rights, the government enables quiet and incremental change. But by also keeping the laws, it signals to the various religious groups that their conservative values have not been swept aside."

But here's Dr Tai's FURTHER conclusion, "For the time being at least, the social compact that the Singaporean government has in effect extracted is that, so long as homosexuals do not press for change and sexual equality before the law too quickly or publicly, gay rights will be allowed to move incrementally closer to the central case. Ultimately, these rights are tenuous and may be revoked unilaterally and without warning or accountability by the ruling elite, since the existence of these rights in Singapore are contingent on the ruling elite exercising its discretion not to enforce homophobic laws or impose a homophobic licensing regime. However, a reversal of the government’s strategy is unlikely unless Singapore experiences a strong and unexpected surge of homophobia among the electoral heartlands or conservative ethnic and religious groups, or more conservative politicians come to power."

Or what about Professor Michael Hor? To be honest, I keep getting a fit of the giggles everytime Andy Ho quotes him because it's very clear from the good professor's writing that he doesn't think all is swimmingly well in our system. But for a relevant read, here's his article, "Singapore's Innovation to Due Process".

Selective use of quotes to give an impression that the writer quoted has a different conclusion than the one implied or given. I think the phrase I'm looking for here is well...quote mining?

And then there's the usual unsubstantiated assertions and falacious logical links but well, I'm pretty used to that. For example, if the "Finnis ideal (is) a due process system (that) has foolproof safeguards to ensure that a suspect is not convicted wrongly...(but also) treated with dignity throughout the process." Then the whole slew of examples he gives that deviate from this central case, which ostensibly are for the purpose of bringing down Singapore's crime rate to the lowest in the world, is a competing policy AND NOT part of moving towards the Finnis ideal.

I mean it isn't necessarily a bad argument if it can be conclusively demonstrated that it does bring down the crime rate. But that is not what the criminal justice system is just about (as he himself implies). Yes, there is Retributivism but also Utilitarianism and Restorative Justice, all which may I add could internally justify just about any position. If so, the issue changes, evolves and shifts and the article at best captures the writer's imagined snapshot of societal norms and at worst, wholly misrepresents it.

And oh, it isn't necessarily true that depriving people of their right to counsel and having extreme powers of search and arrest leads to a low crime rate. A high arrest rate perhaps, but not a low crime rate which is borne of sociological factors and simply resources in enforcement.

And here's a parting thought experiment. If the death penalty were really all that useful, where's the usual trumpeting of studies demonstrating that?


Asia's Freedom Blog

It's Jeff Ooi after all. I do rather regret missing the talk he was doing when he came to the law faculty. But anyway, the reason for the link is because of the Malaysian 'Abu Ghraib' Video as it seems to have been named for the striking resemblance of women in uniform abusing naked person.

And he has links to other links.

There's really nothing to more to add to the already huge amount of analysis and news that's out there. But I like the point Mr. Ooi made, that technology can be a great impetus for transparency and accountability. At the risk of making a tautological argument, any system that fundamentally relies on the control of information and on the asymmetry of knowledge is necessarily fatally undermined when information becomes freer and more egalitarian. Thus, fax machine into Eastern Europe, hence kablooie USSR.

This, of course, is not to deny that a system can remain resistent to change and slowly adapt itself to maintain its chokehold on power but it's nigh inevitable. If one does not accept that democracy creates wealth then one MUST accept that wealth creates democracy given the immense correlation between the two variables. I personally think its a self-reinforcing cycle. If you want the causative links behind these two hypothesis, just search for democracy on this blog.


Thursday, November 24, 2005

*A fuzzy day report a.k.a. Speed Watching TV*

The author has determined that in the interest of his physical and mental health, he will no longer do fluffy reports for fear of retribution by Mr. Fluffy.

Anyway, the following are ways to finish an entire season of West Wing or any drama or sitcom in the fastest time possible.

1. Switch on the subtitles and set the speed mode to 3X. This will still allow the subtitles to show on screen, while making it the fastest mode one can actually still finish reading the subtitles on. This, the author humbly submits, might be the best recourse if one has to suffer through a drama with a good plot and script but truely atrocious acting *cough some TCS English dramas cough*. It also has the added benefit of you not having to suffer as long if it is some really horrid chinese melodrama.

2. Read the transcripts. If you're a speed reader, this is definitely the fastest way to get through an entire season. I read season 1 and part of season 2 of Will & Grace in a day and still had time to do up the last of my mugger notes and arrange a tutorial note!

It also has the fantastic benefit of allowing you to watch all the really good dramas that free-to-air takes forever (if they ever) to bring to local television. And especially so if you don't have cable and will not do so as long as you value you life and work. Personally I would never get anything done if I had more channels than free-to-air.

So thus far, I have read Joey (which I never watched), parts of Alias (has to be watched to be enjoyed, like Buffy) and 4400 (really really good) and oh Lost (which since it is primarily plot driven, can definitely be read). And yes, it allows me to keep up with season 7 of the West Wing (terrestrial is showing season 6, and the only reason I'm watching it is because no transcriber wants to do season 6 for some odd reason).

So now you know what I spend most of my time on the web surfing =P


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

SciPolicy: The Journal of Science and Health Policy

*Public Service Announcement*

The above journal has decided to go free access and all their articles are now free online. I have no actively perused their articles and editorials as yet, but from their amicus brief they filed on behalf on the plaintiff's in the Dover Case to prevent ID from being taught by stealth in the classroom, it looks very promising. Besides, free peer reviewed papers are never a bad thing.

But there is a larger conflict being fought with regards to these journals between the researchers/scientist, and the journals and the people who fund them (either taxpayer or corporations). And the issue at its heart is about IP and who gets access to the information and at what rates (whether money or time).

The general situation right now is that these journals solicit papers from scientist who are normally very willing to submit them for free because getting published by a reputable peer-reviewed journal pads your resume, gets your research out and gives you bragging rights and the occassional prize. But in turn the journal charges insane rates to anyone who wants to access them. But given that the writers don't get any payoffs (well I heard they get a free copy of the issue they are published in) and the research monies tend to be from the public in the first place, I think there is a very strong prima facie presumption that the information ought to be public domain in the first place and the journals ought not to be profiting from it.

At the same time, these journals do do valuable work in consolidating the material, sending them off for peer review, publishing them and maintaining the online database etc., which is primarily funded from the profits they make. Thus, public domain or not, they do have a right to IP.

So perhaps a compromise could be worked out whereby subscribers pay a premium for early exclusive access (say about six months) following which the information becomes public domain and available free to the public.

It's not just information for information sake. The public has a right to see the fruits of their research in one sense. But also, given the current cultural wars and the political war being waged on science (Conservatives/Republicans being the more egregrious side on almost every issue but the Democrats and certain Liberals have also played up the benefits of stem-cell research), it would not hurt for access to the papers they cite to be made more readily available to the public for scrutiny and review.

The other battle being fought is of course corporate sponsored research and the right fo the paymaster to restrict access and availability of the information. The public domain argument gets a little more strained but still, there is never novel research because all information is built upon prior facts, data and research (which is an argument that Nobel Prize Winners are simply lucky to be favour over the people without which their discoveries would have been impossible). As such, they do not have an absolute right to the information and research. In the commerical media world, the 'compromise' is that the length of the copyright would last for the author's life + 70 years. Patents for 25. I'm not entirely certain what the general situation for this area is but from what I remember from the Economist, the trend is for such information to be released earlier and more completely.

Regardless, there's free data if you click the link. So go read!



Tuesday, November 22, 2005

*One more paper down*

But no updates to go for a little while more.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Bloggers Beware: The Five Commandments for Bloggers

Much thanks to Loy Huichieh over at From a Singapore Angle for putting up the link.

It's a Law Gazette feature on how to keep yourself from falling afoul of the legal pitfalls that is libel as a result of keeping a blog i.e. publishing. I've done a previous post on this before and while I like to think that my advice was funnier and more witty, nothing quite beats appropriate authority.

And it does develop on some rather interesting issues that have not made public consciousness i.e. has no bearing on the freedom of speech and expression, in particular, how binding are goods and services sold through your blog. And yes, do read the Electronic Transactions Act (Cap. 88) which can be found over at Statutes Online. You CAN form valid contracts over emails.

But it doesn't discuss blog owner's liability for comments posted by other users. As far as I can determine, unless you're in the US, most other jurisdictions do hold you liable so it is highly suggested that you keep awares of what comments have been posted on your blog either through use of a notification service when someone comments or through something like comments moderation in Bloggers which requires you to accept each and every single comment posted before it appear. and if you really want to be safe, switch off comments altogether.

Nevertheless, it's a great succinct and generally well-written article but I fear that unless you're a law student or are familiar with certain areas of law he talks about e.g. contract and torts, it's not going to be easy to understand all the nuances. But still, it's a good easy read.



Saturday, November 19, 2005

*Did society get a raw/good deal a.k.a. I desperately need to get back to work*

No hard-core geo-political commentary today, I'm simply enjoying basking in the reflected glow of the Cathod Ray Tube (CRT) of my computer monitor as the electrons hopefully bath me in knowledge that I can absorb throught osmosis (wait that's for water molecules only right?).

I figure that such a superstitution is a lot easier on my stomach than photocopying my notes, burning them into ashes, dissolving the ashes in water and then drinking it.

Anyway, I want to post a little something about that pianist skipping town to evade NS and coming back after 28 years to take care of his elderly parents and only getting a fine thing. But then I figured that whatever I post might come back to haunt me and since I haven't exactly staked out my position on this matter yet, it might be wiser to stay silent on this issue. Especially since I get one or two persons googling me every single day now (thus far they have been private IP addresses but who knows?). Yes, it looks like I'm self-censoring myself on this one.

Having said which, I figure a few general questions and comments wouldn't hurt and might in its little way help you come to your decision.

1. Laws are generally meant to be obeyed, especially when it is properly enacted (i.e. by a legitimate government for legitimate aims and goals) and flouting of the law brings about real active societal detriment. So the question would boil down to how you feel about the law in question and the premise on which it is based on. So how important is NS to you and how do you feel about it?

2. By extension, if a law is important then there should be vigourous and active enforcement of that law, including punishment to the fullest extent possible.

3. However, this can be mitigated by equity. By virtue of its general (and inflexible) nature, the law can be very harsh. Therefore there can be mitigation of either the offence or simply the sentencing itself IF the facts warrant it. So the facts are above, what do you think?

4. Statute of Limitation. Most crimes (or for that matter civil action) if not persued after a certain period of time become time-barred and the fact you littered or assaulted someone 10 years ago becomes a non-issue. However, this does not hold for major crimes particularly murder. The notion being that certain crimes are so henious that the state should prosecute regardless of how long ago it occur (good luck with the evidentiary burden though, which is one of the reasons there is a statute of limitation in the first place). It's been 28 years but once again how important is NS to you and how do you feel about it?

5. Implications, message sent and the law of unintended consequences. Assuming that you decide one way or another, there will be consequences. So say you decide to prosecute or not to the fullest extent, there will inevitably be a segment of society that would think you are either too lenient or too harsh obviously. But what message does it send to others who might wish to return to Singapore? And especially what if they can still contribute to our society? We don't define national security narrowly and we know of the 5 forms of security and how we can all play a part in it. But conversely, what sort of message does it send if like Union draftees in the US Civil War, you could buy your way out for $300 (though the money came in way more useful than the warm body did in the end)?

To finish off with a line from The West Wing that I am particularly fond of from Season 4 episode Game On, "[E]very once in a while, there's a day with an absolute right and an absolute wrong, but those days almost always include body counts. Other than that, there aren't very many unnuanced moments..." So the best that can be asked is that one knows the basis for one's beliefs.


Friday, November 18, 2005

*A Quiet Day a.k.a. I need to go back to work*

But before that happens, just a quick comment on two op-eds in the ST today.

The first is "Can we win over women in the war against terror?" by Ms. Zuraidah Ibrahim where she argues that education isn't a panacea and might even form the basis for them turning towards extremism and the use of unconventional tactics.

It's an interesting thesis and one that is (implicitly in the essay) primarily grounded in SEA where she argues that such women are "grounded in South-east Asia's long history and deep culture of strong women", which arguably should be true anywhere else in the world. However, while the 'subjugation' of women is a relatively recent thing, this has to be seen in the context of a long long history where even 100 years may constitute recent. More importantly, recent history has marked a turn where women's position in society is indeed getting stronger. The point is, I'm not entire sure culture is an answer for anything much less tradition is an answer. Dogma and change have tended to come from within traditions and culture so it could really go either way.

As such I simply can't help but get the feeling that her argumentation is a little tautological and perhaps hollow. Note for example, "In the aftermath of the Afghan war, Americans placed great emphasis on Afghan girls and women going back to school, believing that from education wouild come emancipation and resistance to regressive thinking. This might be the case in rural settings, but enough research has been done to show that Muslim women who receive a modern education in urban centres are not automatically immune to fundamentalist religion." Well, obviously that is true, I don't think anyone has made the claim that education will be a cure-all. In fact, one simply needs to look at the rise in Fundamentalism in America to understand that Fundamentalism acts as a 'refuge' for their narrow faith against the more secular and pluralism education people receive.

But the question really has to be, is there an alternative and does edcuation work to mitigate against the reception of fundamentalism? And I think the evidence in Afghanistan generally answers to the affirmative. Women might have to accept the political regime but where they could they resisted the notion that they were 'mere women' who had to stay at home and take care of their husbands etc. (this of course killed the women who had no one to take care of them because they were widowed, had no relatives or were unmarried) but nevertheless, they taught in secret and gave medical help and attention in secret as well. Before the Taliban, women lived and worked in society alongside men. After the Taliban, this naturally stopped but it was the education that gave them a means of resistence. They had skills that could be used and they did.

As long as there's free will and irrationality, education will never work perfectly, but what is the alternative the writer suggests? "[T]here is also an opportunity for the forces of moderation and peace. These are women who are applying their reason and trying to solve the practical problems of life. And, as they try to balance their roles as mother and wife with their own needs for self-fulfillment, they are hardly helpless slaves in their households. They wield great influence, if not power." And finally, "Win over the women and militant Islam will struggle to spread in the region."

*Mr Fluffy reads and thinks. Crickets chrip in the background* This is merely begging the question, "so how do we do this?" And even granting that education will not solve the problem entirely, it's a very good start if people could be encouraged to think and realise that there's a world outside your own narrow parochial interest. And even better if the education provides you will the skills and knowledge that you are not dependent on getting married simply to survive. Every world bank and UNDP study has shown that education is positively correlative with and causal for lower poverty, higher societal wealth, higher expectancy, lower social ills, less ethnic striff etc. All of which are the perfect breeding ground for extremism and terrorism. Yes, Osama bin Laden may not be poor and some of the masterminds of recent attacks come from relatively wealthy and educated backgrounds, but the footsoldiers were not. And if all the masterminds started killing themselves in suicide bombing attacks, I don't think the movement will last very long.

So maybe, education by itself is not sufficient, perhaps we should turn to India and Vietnam for lessons in micro-banking and lifting women and (their familiies and thereby society) from poverty, hunger, and lack of education.

Nevertheless, this essay is good because it could segue into a broader question that is the biggest problem facing all liberal democratic societies today. How does one face the enemies of your society when it is the very nature of your society that breeds and allows these people to promulgate their ideas and their cause? When the forces of intolerance have developed specifically in opposition to the tolerant and secular nature of your society, how does one combat them without irrevocably changing the nature of your society and thereby become as intolerant as the enemies you seek to combat? Is there a straddling line that one can make?

Anyway, leaving you with that thought, I just want to turn to Janadas Devan's op-ed, "How Bush and Hu talks should, ideally, be" and I wish I had the time to go through everything because while I think it starts off well and makes certain good points throughout, it veers off into this merry little path of oddness where he thinks (or at least he thinks Hu thinks) that Taiwan should be happy the CCP is in power because then the CCP would be subject to the vote and the nationalist sentiments would mean an invasion of Taiwan.

*Crickets chirp again*

Well first off, I think Taiwan would be more amenable to talks to China and hell, China would actually come to the table wihtout sprouting ideological arguments, which simply provokes Taiwan to sprouting the converse ones.

Two, one has to question how strong the nationalist sentiments are i.e. strong enough to push a China that doesn't want war into a war?! More to the point, given the inherent social problems that are going on in China, poverty, income inequity and social inequalities divided along coastal/inland, rural/urban divides, you think the general populace can be bothered about Taiwan when they have way more immediate problems?

Three, even if we talk about the Wag-the dog argument i.e. going to war to distract the domestic populace from their problems, democracies don't go to war with other democracies. Hell, democracies go to war at their own risk, espcially with a free press and a general unwillingness to willy-nilly sacrifice lives. And please, if China is already as Mr Devan claims, so succeptible to pressure to keep the status quo as it is, what more if they were a democracy and even more fully integrated into the International Community. And lastly, there's a reason they have a space programme, it sort of acts in a wag-the-dog fashion.

Four, the Chiang-Kai Shek argument is facetious because at that time, Chiang was try actually contemplating a successful reinvasion and reunification of Taiwan. Which is why, until now, the KMT has a One-China policy.

Five, he's way too easy on the Chinese. The question one needs to ask is this, are their domestic interest generally in line with the global one? And the answer is a disturbing "generally no". Taiwan is the second most dangerous friction hot-spot in the world after Kashmir (mostly because India and Parkistan are big, have nukes and very lousy C&C for them).

The reason why Taiwan is so dangerous is because of China's obsession with territorial soverignity, so much so that free-elections are sufficient to get them doing missile tests and war games. This trumps almost any desire for them to keep the international peace and status quo. And if China should one day become powerful enough to do a lightning take over, the DefCon numbers would go shooting down straightaway.

It's not just the US that is worried but every other Asian (east and south-ease) nation that is worried. As it is, some of them are already in a standoff against China e.g. Spratley Islands.

So when the time comes, I seriously hope that China has become a liberal democracy by then.



Newsletter: Parody or Real?

*You Decide!*

Once again, the author has a disclaimer before you click the link at the top. The author disclaims all liable for any harm, including but not limited to the following catagories of personal, mental or physical hurt. So if you psychic ability gets destroyed after reading this, don't come crying to me. The author also disclaims any damage caused by readers falling backwards after leaning back in their chairs and thereby causing damages to the chair and/or the floor. Neither will the reader hold the author liable for any scalds that are the result of you spilling you drinks over your hands or the keyboard.

*Mr Fluffly finishes reading the newsletter and senses...hostility. Gasp! He's psychic!*

Anyway, for the answer check out this "newsletter" and this post over at

It made my day, will it make yours?


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

*It's Fluffy Day!*

*Mr Fluffy sighs and smacks around the author for a bit for taking his name in vain...again*

The Romans had a saying, "Those the gods wish to punish, they fulfill their desires". The Chinese had something equivalent, "Be careful what you wish for. You might just get it." I personally think it's a longer way of saying Know Thyself (and not in the Biblical sense, although there's always what Woody Allen said...).

*Cough*, anyway, Mr Fluffy was originally used as a literary device, mostly to mock and laugh at certain arguments and facts. And besides he's cute. Last we heard, with his robotic Minions of Twilight, he took over a tropical island somewhere in the South Pacific and installed himself as a Fun Benevolent Autocrat (FUBAR) where in preparation for his corronation, he managed to browbeat his Sous Chef to provide vegetarian meals.

This was of course part of his corronation where he was to give a speech and otherwise mingle with the rest of the International Community where he sought admission into the various International Governmental Organisations (IGOs) as well as win influence amongst the ranking leaders of the world. To cut a very long story short (one that involved two attempted military coups and a final consolidation of the greatest South Pacific Empire ever known, Fluffitopia!), he installed a technocratic government made up of his robotic minions and set them to rule his empire while everyone else went to frolic in the specially created Intergrated Resorts.

But he grew bored with sitting by the beach, drinking little cocktails with funny blue paper umbrellas with it and so he's back to serve more sardonic wit and to serve bitter-sweet justice to those who deserve it.'s that kind of day.




The ST published my rebuttal at Man and apes: There's no science in Creationist views. It's more about theology. *Wince* I made some grammatical errors that I only realised today, I mean "rings through"(?) it has been amended above. *Double wince* they truncated all the URL I provided. Oh well, as long people read it.

Anyway, this controvesy is never going to die out mostly because some peoples' faith is so weak and so dependant upon Fundamentalist Literalism that they will not allow this issue to be resolved. But hopefully, as time goes on, they will get pushed further and further into the realms of kooks and crankdom. It won't stop them from pushing scientific facts as 'evidence' for their particular faith but hopefully they'll stop trying to contaminate Science.


*Replies to Dr. Andrew Loke*

Great stuff and argumentation coming from the following writers and their blogs.

The Humean Condition is written by a philosophy major and I like her writings from the few that I have seen thus far.

Work Smarter, a Ph.D candidate at our very own NUS, gives us a great historical annecdote as well as demonstrating why it is simply stale old argumentation reguritated. And oh, the philosophical problems with it too. It's a much much more thorough critique than my is.

The Annotated Budak gives a short succinct letter to the ST that hammers on the core problems (scientific and logically) of the letter.

The following is my own letter to the ST, it makes for easier reading somewhat than the original post. And yes, I fixed the wrong quote amongst other things.

Dear Sir,

I read with great incredulity, Dr Loke's letter "Man's Evolution from Monkey a proven scientific fact? No it's not" primarily because of its disingenous argumentation and its bald assertion that Evolution is a highly debatable theory.

"Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of Evolution", Theodosius
Dobzhansky (1900-1975). This statement rang true then and rings true even today, every experiment done simply verifying the strength of the modern theory of Evolution.

The theory of evolution as it stands is not debated. What is debated are the exact mechanisms and the important certain factors have over the other. To claim otherwise is highly disingenuous and certainty terribly misleading. The only place where this debate is going on is political and narrowly religious.

If micro-evolution can occur, then where's the magic barrier than prevents it from becoming macro-evolution? There can be sufficient changes within the gene pool such that one species can actually separate into two. Science does not stand still and there exists a wealth of evidence for macro-evolution, a very useful guide for the layperson (and even for scientist wanting to know more about Evolution) is at's 29+ Evidence for Common Descent and Evolution (

Similarly it's a terrible assertion that the fossil record contradicts Evolution. No, science is empirical and the fossil record has consistently borne out Evolution. But for more evidence, here's's Fossil Hominds: The Evidence for Human Evolution ( . Or again here, Transitional Vertebrate Fossils ("). There have been missing links filled in but the problem with this is that every time science comes up with another missing link they (the Creationists) end up claiming that there are now TWO gaps.

Furthermore, numbers don't matter in a scientific debate, strength of theories and evidence does. More to the point, a close reading of the statement expressing 'doubt' shows that any scientist could in good faith sign that statement. It simply expresses doubt about Darwinism. Modern Evolution has long since passed that stage, we now know that Darwinism is incomplete because he did not have knowledge of Mandelean Inheritance of genes. It did however, make the theory much stronger. But if it's just numbers you want, the National Centre for Science Education's (NCSE) ( 3541_project_steve_2_16_2003.asp) "Project Steve", which is a tongue-in-cheek parody of such lists. After all, scientists named "Steves" (which include Steven and Stephanie) make up about 1% of scientific populace, but even so, they have over 600 names down on a purposeful statement, which makes it effectively tens of thousands of Scientist who accept Evolution on an evidentiary basis.

And it's rather interesting that DNA and RNA is brought up because there are the basic building blocks of life and it is not sheer coincidence that it has an identical nature in EVERY species. That is proof positive of Common Descend. But more fundamentally, how RNA and DNA came about is not an issue because it does not detract from Evolution.

Furthermore, one has to question the basis on which Dr Ter claims that the hominid fossils are debatable. Perhaps if he were an evolutionary biologist specialising in hominid evolution, his authority could be accepted. But the evidence is really incontrovertible.

There really is no theoretical debate about Evolution, it is more like theological one. While Dr Ter is partially right in that it's not a proven fact of science. But it is such a cornerstone of science and so convincing is the theory that scientist have effective accept it as fact. A theory is not guesswork or conjecture, much less a hypothesis. It is a framework with both descriptive and predictive power over existing facts. At any rate, there is no convincing alternative to Evolution, 'disproving' Evolution does not prove any other theory and that's the fundamental problem with Creationism and Intelligent Design.

Answers in Genesis believes that anything that's not in the Bible must be false, so any science that contradicts it must be wrong. As such they believe in a 6000-10000 year old Earth as well as a world wide flood that coincidentally just happened to arranged the fossils in a perfect geological strata by age. Forming a conclusion and struggling to cram the fact to fit their version of 'science' simply is 'cargo-cult science', it is not scientific.

Lastly, the books that Dr Ter speaks of are not scientifc work or research by any stretch of the imagination, there have not been peer reviewed and have been thoroughly discredited not just by scientist but also theologians. In fact, Dr Behe's discrediting in the recent Dover trial might have been absolute when he admitted that his definition of theory was so broad that no scientifc organisation accepts and so broad in fact that Astrology would count as a 'scientific theory'.

This is a great example of why there is a need to separate religion and state and in particular religion from science.

Anyway, I've been following the Creationist movement since 1997 when I did my first project on evolution and creationism and it hasn't gotten anywhere since then. In fact, they have been predicting the death of Evolution since the 1800s and gee, it's still going strong. The more we learn the sillier they get. I think the ID movement is very clear proof that they know they can't win at the science which is why this battle is fought on the political and theological battleground.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

*Philosophising on Mixed Blessing*

The MacDonald's just three blocks away now operates 24 hours...


*What happened during the 3 hours that made up the Author's Comparative Legal Tradition test*

*Cough* Drumrolls please! Mr Fluffy rattles out a fast roll.
*Drumrolls* For you entertainment
*Drumrolls* For your edification
*Drumrolls by Mr Fluffy doing it behind its back* For your amusement!

8:57 - Author sits in front of the computer waiting for it to be 9:00 a.m.

8:58 - Author still sitting in front of the computer waiting for it to be 9:00 a.m.

8:59 - Author repeatedly right-clicking on the refresh button in IVLE in anticipation of 9:00 a.m.

9:00 - Anticipation. No paper. Checks time again and refreshes his clock. Doesn't seem to work. Microsoft time server not responding.

9:00:37 - Folder opens and exam question is made available

9:01:04 - Reads question

9:01:24 - Curses under his breath because he doesn't understand what the questions wants and wonders why it wasn't a question about tolerance instead

9:02 - 9:16 - Essay planning. Wondering if the answer makes any sense

9:58 - Hits slightly over 400 words. Still on target. Happy

10:02 - Read through the first 400 words and realises the answer doesn't flow. Restructure answer. Curses the ineffectiveness of Lipton Tea.

10:27 - Paces in living room trying to speak out his essay. Hits upon a brilliant answer.

10:27:25 - Realises that the answer was to a different question.

10:47 - Stuck at 600 words and wondering what the hell the prior 100 words meant.

11:15 - Finishes the first part of the question. Looks at computer time and panics

11:38 - Finished first draft and attempting to hammer out a conclusion while edditing the first 1000 words.

11:48 - Finally finishes the conclusion. Goes back to read the earlier paragraphs

11:50 - Looks at thesis and wondering what the hell it means. Makes a valiant attempt at rescuing it.

11:52 - Reads introduction and wondering if the caffine had kicked in yet. Despairs.

10:55 - Realises he has no time to bemoan his wretched writing and rushes into his room to upload the answer.

11:55:24 - Hits the switch and hopes the modem boots up in time. Rapidly transfers his answer to the 'template' and hopes the formatting doesn't screw up.

11:57: Modem finally finishes booting up. Fumbles the firewire cable before managing to plug it into laptop. Desparate counting the seconds as the little notification icon blinks

11:57:30 - Notification icon finally blinks complete. Clicks on the browser and desperately closes the 3 start up pages of, and Types in the IVLE address

11:58 - Types in his user name and password

11:58:15 - At home page. Clicks on workbin.

11:58:25 - Workbin loads. Uploads the file, hammers in the description and clicks submit.

11:58:45 - Little notification icon reads "Uploading 0%"

11:58:50 - Little notification icon STILL reads "Uploading 0%"


And as of my uploading time, only 142 answers were in. It is not a good paper I fear.



Monday, November 14, 2005

*More Creationist Nonsense*

Man's evolution from monkey a proven scientific fact? No, it's not
by Andrew Loke Ter Ern (Dr). Refutation by Author with lots of help from the scientific community.

Prove positive that a weak faith and dogma almost always invariable leads to psuedo-science. All comments prefaced with a >

I watched the show 'A Species Odyssey' on Channel NewsAsia on November 6 and was very concerned with the way the highly debatable theory of human evolution was presented as a fact.

> The theory of evolution as it stands is not debated. What is debated are the exact mechanisms and the important certain factors have over the other. This is a highly disingenuous and certainty terribly misleading. The only place where this debate is going on is political. Science has accepted it and will continue to accept it every single time an experiment is done and does not falsify the notion of evolution and common descent.

While micro-evolution, ie the process of mutation and natural selection, can be observed in nature and is a proven fact, macro-evolution - the theory that all the organisms we see today resulted from the micro-evolution of simpler pre-existing organisms, which ultimately came from non-living matter - is not a proven fact.

> If micro-evolution can occur, where's the magic barrier than prevents it from becoming macro-evolution. There can be sufficient changes within the gene pool such that one speicies can actually separate into two. Science does not stand still and for evidence of macro-evolution, check out's 29+ Evidence for Common Descent and Evolution.

It is in fact contradicted by huge gaps in the fossil records as well as other theoretical considerations (see

> Very very unsubstantiated assertions. But for more evidence, here's's Fossil Hominds: The Evidence for Human Evolution. Or again here, Transitional Vertebrate Fossils. There have been missing links filled in but the problem with this is that everytime science comes up with another missing link they end up claiming that there are now TWO gaps.

Because of the evidence and theoretical considerations, many scientists have now repudiated the theory of macro-evolution (see, for example, and the number is increasing despite the 'persecutions' by scientific establishments wishing to maintian their unwarranted naturalistic philosophy. (See Dr Jonathan Well's The Icons of Evolution, chapter 12).

> Nope. A close reading of the text shows that any scientist could in good faith sign that statement. It simply expresses doubt about Darwinism. Modern Evolution has long since passed that stage, we now know that Darwinism is incomplete because he did not have knowledge of Mandelean Inheiritance of genes. It did however, make the theory much much strong. But if it's just numbers you want, check out National Centre for Science Education's (NCSE) "Project Steve", which is a tongue-in-cheek parody of suchy lists. After all, scientists named "Steves" (which include Steven and Stephanie) make up about 1% of scientific populace, but even so, they have over 600 names down on a purposeful statement, which makes it effectively tens of thousands of Scientist who accept Evolution on an evidentiary basis.

We must note carefully that micro-evolution does not necessarily imply macro-evolution. Micro-evolution only implies that given enough time, living things may change as they adapt to the environment. For example, given enough time, apes may change.

> Again, where's the magic barrier?

But micro-evolution does not necessarily imply that all the living organisms that we see today originates from pre-existing organisms. For example, to say that apes may change given enough time does not necessarily imply that man did come from apes. Above all, micro-evolution does not explain how the RNA/DNA comes about in the first place. (See docs/tjv10n3_origin_life.pdf).

> So the absolute identical nature of DNA and RNA is just a coincidence? Nope, it's very very strong evidence of common descent i.e. we come from a common ancestor.

Paleontologists often construct the supposed intermediates between monkeys and humans with much imagination and subjectivity which resemble myth-writing. (See The Icons of Evolution, chapter 11). Many such constructions have in fact been proven false (eg the Piltdown man which deceived scientists from early 1900s to 1953), while the remaining ones are highly debatable (see

> Very very bad book. The number of retutations are incredible but here's a taste at NCSE, here. And on what basis does he claim it to be debatable? Get me an evolutionary biologist that specialised in homind evolution i.e. a real expert and maybe I'll buy the argument.

People should not be given the idea that evolution from monkey to man is a proven fact of science when it is not and the media should not just present one side of the story without presenting the evidence and theoretical considerations that contradict it.

> Theoretical? More like theological. He's right in that it's not a proven fact of science. But it is such a cornerstone of science that ,"Nothing in biology makes sense outside of evolution". So convincing is the theory that scientist have effective accept it as fact. A theory is not guesswork or conjecture, much less a hypothesis. It is a framework with both descriptive and predictory power over existing facts. Again there is no controvesy about Evolution, it is a controvesy within it. And oh, Answer in Genesis believes that anything that's not in the Bible must be false, so any science that contradicts it must be wrong. A such they believe in a 6000-10000 year old Earth as well as a world wide flood that coincidentally just happened to arranged the fossils in a perfect geological strata by age.

While many books showing the fallacy of macro-evolution can now be found in bookshops and the National Library in Singapore (eg Dr Michael Denton's Evolution, a theory in crisis, Dr Michael Behe's Darwin's Black box), documentaries showing the fallacy of macro-evolution should also be shown on TV to let the public know the truth about our origin.

>Again, very very bad books and thoroughly discredited, just do a quick google. Especially Dr Behe on the witness stand of the Dover Trial. In fact, Dr. Behe rejects what every scientific organisation considers as a scientific theory. His definition of scientific theory is so broad that he admitted on the stand that Astrology would come under his definition. The origin he speaks about is of course a divine one, which means Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden I suppose. But of course, that's only one Genesis story. Genesis 2 has remarkable similarities to quite a few other creation myths.

Why not more press freedom? That's the question

*Electronically published letter to the ST*

It's was originally titled "Press Freedom Leads to Increased Ethnic Strain?" but I think this might actually be catchier.

Anyway, the letter that was printed in the print version by Mr. Peh is by any accounts a more devestating critique of the letter we were responding to. In particular, the use of Rwanda to show how a controlled press can be complicit in the actions of the government which in this case was genocide.

Like any debate on democracy v authoritarian government, it inevitably boils down to the fact that yes an authoritarian government can be a good government, even one that respects human rights in general. But the more important question should be, which system of government BETTER protects the interests of the majority AS WELL AS the minority? And which system better prevents corrupt etc.?

In prior posts here and here I argued that Democracy is not so much a noun but a verb or process of the creation of institutional checks and balances, accountability and transparency. Which is why there are generally a superior form of government. I mean, it's always conceivable that you could have a bunch of Plato's Philosopher-Kings or Confucian Li practicing Scholar-Officials but those tend to be premised on having good people which may not always be the case.