Stranger In An Even Stranger Land - blog by Gurdur


A blog of random jottings on events, science, renfairs, travel, reading, music, humanism, religion, atheism, and even the odd spot of gardening.


Talking about evolution

Posted 10-Apr-2015 at 01:09 AM (01:09) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

Evolution happens, but it's not a simple thing at all, and it's often burdened with projection and myths by people with agendas. Evolution only really gets interesting once we talk about complex things; and those things are the hardest to explain, of course. One of the most comon agendas driving myths about evolution is based on the myth that simple answers can be given off-the-cuff to complex questions, which is of course wrong. One book that really helped me begin understanding evolution is a...
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Rating: 4 votes, 5.00 average.

Understanding life through the Strandbeest art of Theo Jansen

Posted 11-May-2014 at 07:28 PM (19:28) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 21-Dec-2014 at 03:38 PM (15:38) by Gurdur (fixed typos)

On Saturday May the 3rd, I drove up to the Hague. It was easier than I had thought; it only took three hours. I was enormously lucky to catch the last day of an exhibition of the Strandbeest art of Theo Jansen in the Electriciteitsfabriek in the Hague (Den Haag), in the Netherlands. The building is a former power-station - its name in Dutch translates to "Electricity factory". The building is huge; it was very suited to the exhibition, done up there as a mock dig for fossils, with several of his...
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Rating: 13 votes, 5.00 average.

So why did James E. Holmes murder twelve people in a cinema at a Batman movie?

Posted 21-Jul-2012 at 12:55 PM (12:55) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 02-Aug-2012 at 01:33 PM (13:33) by Gurdur

People aren't usually machines. They make choices. Was James Eagan Holmes * insane, driven by madness? He was born on December 13, 1987; on midnight of July 19 and the early morning of July 20, 2012, he killed 12 people and injured another 59 in a movie theater in Denver, Colorado, at a showing of the latest Batman film, a midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. Was he insane? Let's tackle the difficult part first.

The blogger The Last Psychiatrist once said in connection to...
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In Alabama, 21% of polled are still against inter-racial marriage

Posted 14-Mar-2012 at 08:44 AM (08:44) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

A new poll of Alabama voters has just been released. The poll, which was carried out by Public Policy Polling (PPP), can be found on a .pdf here. The poll had as respondants 600 likely Republican primary voters in Alabama, and it was carried out on March 10th and 11th. According to PPP, the margin of error for the Alabama poll is +/-4.0%. The PPP say their poll was not paid for or authorized by any campaign or political organization. It was conducted through automated telephone interviews. Women...
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Rating: 3 votes, 5.00 average.

On the debate between Richard Dawkins & Bill O'Reilly - knowledge versus faked authenticity. The moral relativism of the right

Posted 07-Oct-2011 at 05:35 PM (17:35) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 07-Oct-2011 at 06:04 PM (18:04) by Gurdur

There's an interesting debate between Richard Dawkins and Bill O'Reilly, parts of which are shown in the video below, which also features analysis of some of its highlights by Cenk Kadir Uygur (of the Young Turks program). It does bring to light a couple of points I've long thought about. The first point is personal authenticity. Disregard the dishonest tactics of Bill O'Reilly for a moment, and look at what he's appealing to underneath; he appeals to two or three factors.

The first...
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Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.

Do we really need PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins working together? A reply to Lee Myers and to all

Posted 02-Aug-2011 at 06:08 PM (18:08) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 02-Aug-2011 at 07:44 PM (19:44) by Gurdur

I'm jumping the gun a bit here, since I am still working on a very long ElevatorGate post that should have been up on Sunday, and wasn't; yesterday turned into a very stressful day. I always prefer to start from the facts of a situation before tackling prescriptives, but I'm going to do this now, and I will have my other new ElevatorGate post(s) up very soon.

Lee Myers commented on a previous blog post of mine: "... I live in Texas, a state where people want to teach my daughter...
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Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.

Support the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) in the USA: putting my money where my mouth is

Posted 29-Jul-2011 at 04:53 PM (16:53) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 29-Jul-2011 at 05:08 PM (17:08) by Gurdur

This is just a filler while I work slowly on two horribly complex and controversial blog posts (both should be up later today - wish me luck!), but it's an important filler. If you want to see better science education in the USA, if you care about the new generations, then support the National Center for Science Education (NCSE, @NCSE), by becoming a member. I did (last night), as a foreign member; it only cost me $40 for full-rate as a foreigner.

The NCSE is the main actor out there...
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Society, Ethics And Science Weekly blogs round-up - 10/11 April 2011

Posted 12-Apr-2011 at 04:15 PM (16:15) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 13-Apr-2011 at 09:12 AM (09:12) by Gurdur

As ever, the best around the web that I find. Late (this should have appeared last night), but hey, by now I guess you expect me to be a trifle late. Better than being premature. You can see my other weekly blogs round-ups here.

Science: I don't know if you remember my blog post a while back about rats in pants, but now they have portable, minaturized PET scanners for pets, whoops, mistake, sorry, I mean PET scanners for lab rats. It's science, Jim.

Science, science...
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Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.

Society, Ethics And Science Weekly blogs round-up - 20/21 March 2011

Posted 21-Mar-2011 at 09:24 PM (21:24) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 21-Mar-2011 at 11:30 PM (23:30) by Gurdur

Last week I was too ill to do the weekly blogs round-up, so this one is going to be a bit bigger than usual. As ever, the best around the web on the issues that affect us all, the issues of interest. I have a backlog of a million more links I would like to cite here, but just to make sure I get this damned and damnable thing out on time, I will leave it as it now is and maybe do a follow-up addition in a new blog post.

Science: @BoraZ of the blog A Blog Around The Clock announces...
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Society + Science Weekly blogs round-up - 27/28 February 2011 - science, culture, philosophy, religion, atheism

Posted 28-Feb-2011 at 10:06 PM (22:06) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 28-Feb-2011 at 10:22 PM (22:22) by Gurdur

This is my usual weekly blogs round-up, marked off for Sunday/Monday. I considered how I may not be making clear what the blogs round-up is all about, thinking it would be self-evident, so I am making it more immediately clear: this regular blogs round-up is all about culture, science, mind, history, religion, atheism and philosophy. I am titling it so so as to make that clear. Every week emphasis is random; this particular week, this one is very heavy on the science, with not so much on religion...
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Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.

So, just what is this "Religion" thang anyway?

Posted 24-Feb-2011 at 03:19 PM (15:19) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 24-Feb-2011 at 03:39 PM (15:39) by Gurdur

Anyone who has seriously tried getting to grips with defining religion overall, and trying to scientifically describe or deal with it, knows just how difficult -- or downright impossible -- the task is. It has practical outworkings; I am always severely annoyed with simplistic explanations of "religion" from a cod evolutionary-psychology direction, but then over-reaching from the evo psych direction on practically any human activity tends to be often irksomely specious. The "biology of religion"...
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Bumper weekly blogs round-up - 20/21 February 2011

Posted 21-Feb-2011 at 09:13 PM (21:13) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 21-Feb-2011 at 09:52 PM (21:52) by Gurdur

This is a bumper round-up of blog posts for this week, since owing to illness I could not do one last week. This time round I've added small headings (in dark green) for entries to help reading this. Subjects as ever are science, philosophy, atheism, religion, humanism, history, literature, and, basically, anything that strikes my fancy. I have a broad fancy. I'm still as sick as a very dead brown dog, so please excuse this round-up coming late in on Monday evening.

Science: reporting...
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Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.

Today is Charles Darwin Day! As important as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and vice versa

Posted 12-Feb-2011 at 07:12 PM (19:12) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 12-Feb-2011 at 10:27 PM (22:27) by Gurdur

Today is Charles Darwin Day, and it -- like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day -- is something everyone should celebrate. Darwin's discoveries of natural selection and evolution through such selective mechanisms were not completely new when he made them; several others were working towards the same discoveries, and an apiarist (a beekeeper) actually wrote down a fair description of evolution soon before Darwin did, but it was Darwin who did the most work and research of most of the naturaliists at the...
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Rating: 4 votes, 5.00 average.

Which came first, religion or morality? Robert Wright and Frans de Waal discuss ethics and evolution

Posted 19-Oct-2010 at 04:22 AM (04:22) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

An interesting discussion (diavlog) on morality/ethics, origins, evolution, religion, human behaviour and so on, on, with Robert Wright and Frans de Waal. Robert Wright is a noted journalist, scholar and author. Frans de Waal is a noted Dutch primatologist, ethologist (the scientific study of animal behavior) and author. I might comment on a few things in it in another blog post later.

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Rating: 4 votes, 4.75 average.

Is memetics dead? Tim Tyler's attempted refutation. How the meme became a zombie, Part 2

Posted 14-Oct-2010 at 08:22 AM (08:22) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 14-Oct-2010 at 03:52 PM (15:52) by Gurdur

In Part 1 of this mini-series, we saw that memetics originally started as the desired "science of memes", while memes are supposed units or vague clumps of information. Now, there are good reasons for treating memes and memetics as two different things -- because memetics also came to be used to denote someting rather different from the original concept, to wit, the term came to be used also (first in 1989) for the memetic algorithm, which is: "...any population-based approach with separate individual...
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Rating: 3 votes, 5.00 average.

Whatever happened to memes and memetics? Richard Dawkin's idea, and how it became a zombie idea: Part 1

Posted 19-Sep-2010 at 02:35 PM (14:35) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 14-Oct-2010 at 08:00 AM (08:00) by Gurdur

The word and concept "meme" first entered the English language and major discussion almost 35 years ago, and today the meme concept is a zombie. It came into usage when the book "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins first came out in 1976. The book is very readable, very good - and also very dated; some parts are simply out of date, and as said one of the most famous ideas to emerge from that book - the meme - has become a zombie. A meme was defined loosely as any kind of discrete transmitted cognitive...
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Susan Blackmore recants on theory of religion as virus

Posted 16-Sep-2010 at 07:22 PM (19:22) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

Susan Blackmore has recanted on her previously-held theory of religion being analogous to some kind of viral infection, a mind-virus. In a piece on the Guardian, she explains why; but it is all a very odd article by her. In that article, Susan Blackmore makes a dichotomy between "viral" and "adaptive"; that is simply erroneous. Blackmore doesn't think a viral infection can be helpful; as a hard and fast principle, she's wrong on that. She juxtaposes bacteria against viruses; that doesn't hold in...
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My review of the novel by China Miéville, Kraken (science fiction/fantasy, evolution, Darwin, atheism, faith and religion)

Posted 13-May-2010 at 10:04 AM (10:04) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 13-May-2010 at 03:11 PM (15:11) by Gurdur

I'm going to review the SF/fantasy novel Kraken, (author: China Miéville; USA edition, British edition) here, rather than on the Hub board, because this novel has been getting a lot of interest in the blogosphere, dealing as it does with themes including Darwin, evolution, religion, faith and atheism. It's quite a long novel; my hardcover copy runs to 482 pages. It's a very well-written, well-paced novel indeed, and yet I found it ultimately disappointing. Perhaps I found it disappointing because...
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Rating: 4 votes, 5.00 average.

The war of True Atheists and True Skeptics against the so-called accommodationists

Posted 23-Apr-2010 at 08:27 AM (08:27) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 23-Apr-2010 at 05:45 PM (17:45) by Gurdur

It is of great concern to many True Atheists/True Skeptics that there are so-called accommodationists, people who are considered counter-revolutionary traitors dangerously soft on religion. I've blogged before about the incredible over-reaction shown by Russell Blackford and Ophelia Benson (among others) towards Chris Mooney, and about Jerry Coyne's childishness towards the so-called accommodationists. There are newcomers to the ongoing revolutionary struggle debate, and their views are worth considering...
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Rating: 3 votes, 5.00 average.

More on convergent evolution and the art and artwork of the film Avatar

Posted 31-Jan-2010 at 10:20 AM (10:20) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 29-Mar-2010 at 03:41 AM (03:41) by Gurdur

I've blogged a fair bit already on the movie Avatar, links at the bottom of this blog entry, but hey, there always seems to be something to add and to develop. I mentioned before the possibility of convergent evolution as to the artwork of Avatar, but after a long while I've become sure of it, and much more sure that Cameron was not ripping anyone off with Avatar and I'll write here why, though in this blog entry I'll keep it to part of the artwork only, and do the rest in a later post.
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