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Questioning Darwin

Blogging is likely to be light for the next week or so. I’m gearing up for some traveling, starting at the end of the week. On Thursday I’ll leave for Chicago, to participate in the annual AAAS Conference. Over the weekend I will be in Parsippany, New Jersey to participate in the annual chess extravaganza…

Sunday Chess Problem

Some chess problems are the equivalent of a big, Thanksgiving dinner. They have numerous variations and complex strategy. And that’s fine, if a big dinner is what you want. Sometimes, though, you just want a pleasant little amuse bouche. And that’s what we have today. The problem below was composed by William Shinkman, one of…

Philosopher John Wilkins has responded to yesterday’s post about conflicts between evolution and religion. Sadly, he so grossly distorts what I said that I don’t think he has replied very effectively. John quotes only a single short excerpt from my lengthy post: So, after all, that, let us return to Plait’s argument. He tells us…

Writing at Slate, Phil Plait has a post up about the big Ham vs. Nye debate. He gets off to a good start: Last night, science advocate Bill Nye “debated” with creationist Ken Ham, the man who runs the Creation Museum in Kentucky. I was torn about the event; I think it’s important that science…

The DI In Damage Control Mode

In yesterday’s post, I remarked that the clear loser in yesterday’s debate was the intelligent design crowd. They’ve been trying for years to persuade people that anti-evolutionism has nothing–nothing–to do with blinkered religious obscurantism. And in one widely viewed, widely covered, debate Ken Ham went and messed it all up. The Discovery Institute seems to…

Even Pat Robertson Is Piling On

Among the people unimpressed with Ken Ham’s performance yesterday is televangelist, and former Republican Presidential candidate, Pat Robertson: In a video of his appearance on the 700 Club TV program, captured by Right Wing Watch, Robertson reacted to the debate between Ham and Nye by reiterating his previously stated belief that Young Earth Creationism is…

Debating Creationists

The big debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham was tonight. Click here for the video. The whole thing is close to three hours, so get comfortable if you want to watch it all. I was watching it live, but about two-thirds of the way through I kept losing the signal. I would reload the…

I had not intended to do another post on this topic so soon after the last one. But I have just read an astonishingly bad post over at Uncommon Descent that discusses this issue, and I cannot resist responding. The post is called, “Where Do We Get the Probabilities?” It was written by Winston Ewert,…

Sunday Chess Problem

This week’s problem was composed by Mircea Manolescu in 1956. In the position below, it is white to move and mate in two. Remember that white is always moving up the board, while black is always moving down. Vertical files are labeled as a–h from left to right, while the horizontal ranks are labeled 1–8…

Drought in California

California is running out of water: California is dry as a bone, and the effects are like something out of an apocalyptic film. Cities are running out of water. Communities are fighting over what little water there is. Local governments are imposing rationing coupled with steep fines. Fires are ravaging the state. Entire species and…

Here’s a trailer for the HBO documentary about evolution and religion that I mentioned a while back: The film was made by Antony Thomas, who is a very prominent documentary filmmaker from England. I was one of the talking heads interviewed for the film, and Antony wrote to tell me that some of my interview…

Church and State in Kansas

When I finished graduate school in 2000, I interviewed with a large number of schools. One of them was Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. They are a pretty strong liberal arts school which, its name notwithstanding, has never had a religious affiliation. I was interviewed by the chair of the department, and at one…

Sunday Chess Problem

Having devoted the last three problems to exploring the exotic world of selfmates, I think it’s time for a return to the real world. So let us now consider a genre that has not yet been featured in this series: The two-move direct-mate. In the position below, it is white to move and mate in…

Branch Discusses Falsifiability

In a lengthy comment to my post on probability and evolution, I pointed out that for scientists engaged in biological research, natural selection is not an abstract principle. It is not something that is invoked casually as a catch-all explanation for whatever complex biological system crosses their path. Rather, it is a tool that they…

Probability and Evolution

Returning now to my radio debate with Sean Pitman, another issue that arose involved the use of probability theory in understanding evolution. Sean argued, indeed, it was really his only argument, that natural selection was incapable in principle of crafting complex adaptations. He chided me for not including in my book any probability calculations to…