Archives for April, 2011

Blackford Replies to Ruse

Today is the last day of classes around here, meaning that I am just too darn happy to work up the righteous indignation needed for a proper blog post. So your homework is to go read this excellent essay from Russell Blackford. It is mostly directed at the recent chest-thumping of Michael Ruse, but also…

The Trouble With “Independents”

Over at The New Republic, Georgetown University history professor Michael Kazin writes: No group in American politics gets more respect than independent voters. Pundits and reporters probe what these allegedly moderate citizens think about this issue and that candidate, major party strategists seek the golden mean of messaging that will attract independents to their camp…

Monday Math: Mersenne Primes

Like all moderately curious people, I’m sure you’ve often wondered whether it’s possible for \[ N=a^k-1 \]   to be a prime number, where a and k are positive integers. Well, I’m here to answer that for you! To avoid trivial cases, we shall assume that k is at least two. Of course, I’m sure…

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this, but the U. S. Chess Championship is currently going on in St. Louis. I have been dutifully following the games online, of course. It is one of the great cruelties of chess that forty perfect moves can be undone by one moment of carelessness. We amateur…

Update: Saturday, 2:48 am. The original version of this post contained an unkind remark directed towards Josh Rosenau. My intention was facetious hyperbole, but upon further reflection I’ve decided that my remark is too easily misunderstood as personally acrimonious. For that reason I have revised that sentence, while leaving unchanged the substantive points I was…

To Roanoke!

As soon as I am done teaching this afternoon I will hop into the Jason-mobile and sally forth to scenic Roanoke, Virginia. I will be giving my Monty Hall talk at Roanoke College this evening at 7:00. If anyone reading this is familiar with the campus, I will be speaking in Massengill Auditorium. See you…

Barash States it Plain

Given all the semi-coherent venom coming from people like Michael Ruse and Jacques Berlinerblau lately, I’d say the Chronicle of Higher Education is lucky to have David Barash in its stable of bloggers. This recent post is a most welcome affirmation: Two decades ago, I wrote a book proposal for a volume to be titled…

Reality Check?

Prior to my journey to the University of Maryland last week, I mentioned to my classes that I would be seeing Richard Dawkins speak. On a whim, I asked how many of them had heard of Dawkins. I have about sixty students in three courses this term. The number who raised their hands? Six. Submitted…

The Guardian has an interesting dialogue between Sam Harris and Robert Winston on the subject of science and faith. I have some problems with both gentlemen, but, surprise!, I have bigger problems with Winston. Let’s consider some excerpts. Harris first: Religious language is, without question, unscientific in its claims for what is true. We have…

Dawkins in Maryland

Having had so much fun during my last sojourn to the University of Maryland, I decided to repeat the experience this past Wednesday. Richard Dawkins was speaking, you see. Here he is on stage during the introductions:   I attended with Douglas Gill and Clinton Jenkins, both of the University of Maryland Biology Department. And…

Doing Basic Things Wrong

Time to lighten the mood around here. So how many of these are you doing wrong?

Let’s get clear on one thing. Terry Jones, the delightful Florida pastor who burned the Koran the other day, thereby setting in motion a sequence of events that has led to several days of violence and bloodshed, is a bigot, and a jerk, and many other unsavory things. But if he is made to suffer…

Zakaria States it Plain

CNN’s Fareed Zakaria has by far the most intelligent take that I’ve seen on the Quran burning by pastor Terry Jones of Florida: Let’s talk for a moment about the Quran burning in Florida and it’s consequences. Most Americans are repulsed by the offensive actions of Pastor Terry Jones, a publicity-seeking extremist. But they must…