Newsweek: Brains are back!

And not a moment too soon. A Newsweek article explores the return of intellect and reason to the White House after the shallow anti-intellectualism that has plagued our nation for (at least) eight years.

This may be the number-one reason I supported Obama as vigorously as I did. He is a thinker. He’s curious. He wants to know the truth, and he’s not afraid to question and challenge — or to be questioned and challenged himself. It’s about time!

And now… please… let’s put a few anti-intellectual ideas to bed:

1. Earth is not 6000 years old. We can be reasonably certain through carbon dating and other scientifically validated methods that it is approximately 4.5 billion years old.

2. Evolution is a fact. We can observe it — and we have — at the microscopic level (i.e. antibiotic-resistant bacteria) and in other species with short lifespans (like some insects), and it is a logically consistent explanation for the diversity of life we see on Earth today. Why can’t we witness it happening at the macro level, like in humans? See point number 1. The slice of Earth’s lifespan that your own represents is smaller than the division between Al Franken and Norm Coleman in this year’s Senate race. It’s the same reason we don’t see stalactites grow.

3. Global warming is caused by human activity. Sure, the overall temperature of the planet has fluctuated over the millennia, but the rate of increase in the last 150 years (coinciding with industrialization) is unprecedented.

4. Science is the quest for knowledge and understanding. It is a good thing that everyone should study. It does not preclude religious belief; the two are not mutually exclusive. You do not need to reject science to have faith, and you do not have to reject faith to believe in science. But faith, by definition, cannot be proven, and science can — in fact, that’s what makes it science, and it’s given us just about everything we have in the modern world.

Ahh… it feels good! Brains are back! Now, let’s stop arguing the validity of things we know to be true, and start doing something about them!

I have a “theory” that most people don’t understand what a theory really is…

Wired has published an excellent article on how creationists are exploiting general misunderstanding of the scientific term “theory”. There is copious evidence that the principles of evolution are sound: aside from the fact that dog breeding (not a “natural” process, but evolutionary nonetheless) is something most people, creationist or not, take for granted, we can observe evolution — as an incontrovertible fact — among species like bacteria that undergo rapid reproductive cycles.

The problem, as the article suggests, is not so much one of science as it is of language: the word “theory” means something much different (and much more specific) to a scientist than it does to the average person, and creationist activists are expertly employing this fact to their advantage.

For me the question still remains, for what advantage? There’s nothing about evolutionary theory that denies the existence of a creator. The only thing at risk is wholesale fundamentalist belief in the inerrant truth of the Bible, and if you can live with “inerrant truth” being rife with self-contradictions, you’re going to have a lot of trouble with science anyway. But that doesn’t mean it’s not true. But, meh, who needs science anyway? What has science done for the average person, anyway? (Don’t ask that question with your eyes open, unless you happen to be somewhere in the middle of untouched wilderness… completely naked and devoid of tools of any kind… and, uh, without a computer on which to read these words.)

Science explains my madness, at last

If anyone has been bothering to read my rants for the past five-plus years, you may recall that one of my earliest blog posts was a tirade against the evils of cords.

Finally, while it may not be much solace, science as at least touched upon an explanation for why cords suck.

It’s kind of funny now, looking back at what I wrote in 2002. I was speaking in awed and reverent tones of the mystical wonders that awaited us in the future, these things called “AirPort” (I’m not even sure the term “Wi-Fi” was in use yet back then), and “Bluetooth” — things so new and wondrous that I put them in quotes when I referred to them, without a trace of irony.

Now I am pretty much taking for granted the fact that I’m sitting on my bed typing this on my laptop, connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi link to the router downstairs, and I’m controlling the cursor with a Bluetooth wireless mouse. Frankly, I’m more surprised by the fact that as of last Sunday my Mac is now set up in a triple boot configuration, with Mac OS X, Windows XP, and Ubuntu Linux.