Posts from 16th December 2004

16
Dec 04

The new face of Creationism.

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The new face of Creationism.

CNN ran a story yesterday on the Intelligent Design Network’s proposed revisions to the science standards set by the Kansas School Board. It should come as a surprise to no one that this is happening in Kansas, where evolution was dropped as a required part of the curriculum in 1999, resulting in widespread ridicule. However, contrary to what was implied at the time, the teaching of evolution wasn’t banned in Kansas, it was simply removed from the mandated, state-wide curriculum. On a local level, any school could continue to teach evolution if they wanted to. The intent was to open up evolution to broader scientific enquiry, which wasn’t possible if it was required learning in all schools, or some crap like that.

Which brings us to today. Evolution is still off the curriculum, and now they want to put Intelligent Design on the curriculum. First off, don’t be fooled by the jargon — Intelligent Design = creationism, just like vertically challenged = short. Second, don’t think that because they’ve got people with Ph.D.’s supporting this, then there must be something to it. Just as historians, medical doctors, and politicians can be quacks, so too can scientists.

More codes deciphered … “objective inquiry” is shorthand for saying “evolution cannot be rigourously proven, therefore, it is time to consider some alternatives”. The existence of G-d can’t be rigourously proven either, but of course you never hear them talk about that. Also, the whole “theory” = “just a guess” misnomer rears its ugly head, i.e. the usual attempt to fool people into thinking that evolution was concocted on a whim. “Theory” doesn’t mean the same thing in science as it does in colloquial conversation. My dictionary defines it as “a closely reasoned set of propositions, derived from and supported by established evidence and intended to serve as an explanation for a group of phenomena”. That’s not exactly what one means when one says “I have a theory as to who drank the last beer that was in the fridge”.

In one of their publications (browse the site), they claim that “the most important, defining characteristic of Darwinian evolution is that it is an unguided, unplanned, and purposeless process”. I couldn’t agree more. It’s the next step in their reasoning which is problematic.

Let’s boil down their arguments by considering everyone’s favourite example: flipping a coin. Suppose you flip a coin one hundred times, and record the sequence of heads and tails you get while doing so, i.e. “HHTHTTH …” (you can even think of it as a simplified DNA sequence if you wish, in fact, that would probably help). The total number of possible sequences is 2100. Therefore, the probability of getting any particular sequence is 1/2100.

If you actually do this experiment, the sequence you wind up with is achieved randomly. Nobody has any trouble believing this. However, it is also true that the probability of getting that exact sequence is 1/2100. Just because the sequence is highly unlikely doesn’t make its generation any less random. So if you did the experiment and showed me the sequence that resulted from it, then it would be proposterous to criticize you by saying “there’s a miniscule 1-in-2100 chance that you could have gotten that sequence … that couldn’t POSSIBLY have happened in a random manner, an INTELLIGENT DESIGN must have produced that sequence for you!”.

FT TOP 100 FILMS

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FT TOP 100 FILMS

So with one to go, to be posted tomorrow, here have a quick overview of the FreakyTrigger Top 100 films: 100-2:

100. Citizen Kane
99. Star Wars: A New Hope
98. Raiders Of The Lost Ark
97. Bringing Up Baby
96. Godfather II
95. Some Like It Hot
94. Night Of THe Living Dead
93. Zoolander
92. One Of Our Dinosaurs Has Gone Missing
91. Afterlife
90. Mars Attacks
89. Gohatto
88. Time Regained
87. Lord Of The Rings: Return OF The King
86. Metropolis
85. Galaxy Quest
84. Aliens
83. Die Hard
82. Theatre Of Blood
81. Brazil
80. Pretty In Pink
79. But I’m A Cheerleader
78. Grosse Point Blank
77. Lost Boys
76. The Philadelphia Story
75. Rushmore
74. Final Destination II
73. How To Marry A Millionaire
72. Flight Of The Navigator
71. Dumb And Dumber
70. The Fifth Element
69. Joan Of Arc: The Messenger
68. Curse Of The Cat People
67. Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead
66. Carry On Nurse
65. Three Men And A Baby
64. My Fair Lady
63. The Royal Tenenbaums
62. Ghostbusters
61. The Dark Crystal
60. The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari
59. Debbie Does Dallas
58. Black Cat White Cat
57. The Incredible Journey
56. A Muppet Christmas Carol
55. Police Academy
54. 24 Hour Party People
53. Breakin’
52. Easter Parade
51. The Purple Rose Of Cairo
50. Annie Hall
49. Crouch End Tiger Hornsey Dragon
48. Time Bandits
47. Goldfinger
46. The Towering Inferno
45. Monty Python’s Life Of Brian
44. Cool Runnings
43. Xu: Warriors Of The Magic Mountain
42. X-Men
41. Black Narcissus
40. Ginger Snaps
39. The Breakfast Club
38. The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp
37. Intastella: The 5earch For The 5ecret 5tar 5ystem
36. Duel
35. Dune
34. Tron
33. The Big Lebowski
32. It’s A Wonderful Life
31. Infernal Affairs
30. Bananas
29. Casablanca
28. Leon
27. Jaws
26. Jamon Jamon
25. A Matter Of Life And Death
24. Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers (Abel Ferrara vers.)
23. Gremlins II
22. This Is Spinal Tap
21. Babe
20. Election
19. South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut
18. The Seven Samurai
17. Trading Places
16. The Cassandra Crossing
15. Queen Of The Damned
14. Ten Things I Hate About You
13. Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship Of The Ring
12. Escape From New York
11. Clueless
10. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
9. Back To The Future
8. Rear Window
7. Wargames
6. Crocodile Dundee
5. Waynes World
4. Pirates Of The Carribean
3. Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure
2. Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey

THE ADVENT CALENDAR OF CHRISTMAS FILMS 16: Miracle On 34th Street

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1947 version. It really is no contest. Cute little Nathalie Wood versus that kid from Mathilda who looks like she is constantly sucking a thistle. No, we like our sugar coated sentimentality dished up firmly with a black and white spoon. Though perhpas one of the strangest things about Miracle On 34th Street was that it was not a Christmas film at all. Sure, it is about Santa, and set at Christmas – but it was actually released in May as the studio chiefs thought more people went to the cinema in the summer. I think it might have been something to do with fleapit heating.

Of course Kringle is clearly mad. There is no Santa Claus and if there was a Santa he would not be knocking around in a department store. In that respect the film is awfully daring with using the scapel of a legal trial to show the deep logical flaws in this Christmas myth. Luckily though this is a Hollywood trial which follows no real legal precedent and therefore despite clear intimations to contrary, it turns out that Kringle may well be Claus after all. Absolute tosh of course, but rarely has a film skirted so dangerously with disillusioning its audience, and then recovering from this in the last reel.

THE DADDINO FAMILY TREASURY OF CHRISTMASES PAST Christmas 1977

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THE DADDINO FAMILY TREASURY OF CHRISTMASES PAST
Christmas 1977

L-R: Tommy, Me

North Bellmore is less than thirty miles away, but I go into Manhattan exactly twice in the 1970′s: one in a class trip to the United Nations in 1979 and other is for THE. BEST. CHRISTMAS EVE. EVER. Mom, my brothers and I take a train into New York City to see my dad in his natural habitat. (Mom wears open-toed heels that I accidentally step on a lot during the train-ride.) Before this, what did I think dad did all day? Answer unclear, try again later. When he was home he’d often work on these inscrutable feats of number-crunching with a HUGE ten-digit Texas Instruments calculator (mine now) and paper spreadsheets with grids in green and white; if I gave any thought to it, I probably assumed he did much the same at work, only wearing a suit. The visit to his offices didn’t clarify much, though it did reveal to me that he worked with computers, too, as one of his co-workers took us aside to show some print-outs of ASCII art. Looking out of someone’s private office (or maybe it was a computer room, if they were putting such things in windowed building perimeter rooms back then), I could see another tall building, part of a cavern of buildings causing darkness on a sunny afternoon.

Then we all went to the World Trade Center. Up to this day, the tallest building I’ve been in couldn’t have been more than a few stories — the tallest building in Nassau County (both in 1977 and 2004) is the Nassau University Medical Center, a mere 19 and I don’t think ever been in that monster. Going up in the elevators is an alarming experience, as I have to pop my ears much as I did on the airplane ride to Florida earlier this year (in the picture above I’m wearing Disneyworld PJs my parents bought there). When we’re up there I was told I just wasn’t going to fall out of the window, and encouraged to get nearer, but the windows extended from the floor to the ceiling and when I was too close it looked too much like my feet was right at the edge of a mile-high drop. A month or two before 9/11, my boss took the marketing department to an informal breakfast at Windows on the World, and when we left, we all passed by a foot-to-ceiling window to get a better view of Manhattan looking uptown, and when I got too close, when I could see the buildings directly under us, there was that same terrified feeling in the knees again and I just had to get away. In 1977, down where the World Financial Center will be, I can see landfill but assume it’s a beach; some time later, misunderstanding a comment by my one of my grandparents, I assume that this landfill is also the site of one my very earliest memories, me and my brothers on a beach, climbing a wooden structure.

Speaking of falling into voids, this photo is amazing because save for a floating piece of wire, it looks as if reality trails off into nothingness right behind. It’s also slightly blurry, indicating that my mom took this. She’s a long-time sufferer of arthritis — probably had it when she was a kid, even — but it’s after the age of thirty that it starts getting really acute, and in light of this, I’m rather amazed she soldiered on as she did, taking really hammy photos of Christmas photos of us even though her hands would seize up in pain.

I’m six-and-a-half in this photo. When Tommy was six-and-change in 1972, he got way much more crap for his stocking-stuffer thing AND a sleeping bag, too. But I get Kermit and Grover, a gift-pack of Life Savers I eat in one sitting, crayons for the third year in a row, and two Richard Scarry books, one of which features cut-and-paste Christmas ornaments you’ll see later. I think that one was Richard Scarry’s Best Make-It Book Ever, and the other one was Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever…and suddenly I get some insight where a certain music anthology series might’ve gotten its name.