somewhat daily mutterings

/Issues_and_Commentary Fight over Intelligent Design is Heating Up

Apparently there is now a lawsuit brewing in California, with creationists/IDers complaining that the "science" education provided by some Christian schools is unfairly held to be insufficient by the University of California system. A few good posts from The Questionable Authority:

The second link contains some quotes from a textbook in question. Priceless. However I have to wonder: if a student, regardless of backwards schooling, can get a good enough score on the proper tests, and can get through the admissions process, I'm not sure I understand why UC would deny them schooling. If the student's schooling was truly sub-standard, then the student would fail out like plenty of other students who were provided a "standard" education. Besides, a real education might allow them to break free of the cloister.

Regardless, if I reflect too long on this battle, it starts depressing me. What in the world is happening here?

Posted: Wed Aug 31 07:33:21 -0700 2005

/Programming/Ruby Watching Ruby on Rails Metastasize...

... and I mean that in a good way. One of my favorite examples is how Justin Gehtland has moved from a RoR experimenter flush with early success to a full-on proselyte. It's been interesting reading his accounts of RoR experimentation and seeing the transformation in progress. Of course, he's a consultant, so it makes very good sense for Relevance LLC to jump on the RoR bandwagon with both feet and a bag of chips (mixed metaphor very intended) but let's not get too cynical (it's hard, but I try).

Thanks for the posts, Justin. I'm only a little envious.

Posted: Sat Aug 27 08:17:16 -0700 2005

/Issues_and_Commentary Required Reading for Both Sides of the Intelligent Design Argument...

...although I'm sure that one of the sides will show little interest.


Posted: Sat Aug 27 07:46:10 -0700 2005

/Issues_and_Commentary Political Viewpoints and their Relationship to Science

Like many people, I'm paying special attention to science and its relationship to politics and culture lately (thanks so much, "Intelligent Design"). While reading a bunch of reactions to the return of ID (ne creation science, ne creationism) to public debate, I tripped over Bora's post on Lefty and Righty excesses of pseudo-science which deserves special mention (and linkage). Although not about ID specifically, the article does a great job of putting the current tempest, along with a few others, into perspective.

Posted: Thu Aug 25 12:17:17 -0700 2005

/Meta I'm serving up RSS Feeds!

After a couple recent complaints about the lack of an RSS feed for my site, I whipped up RSS support today in about four hours of ruby hacking. Most of the time was spent getting gemcast (my ruby-based weblog engine) to recognize new feed-oriented URLs. This meant making gemcast recognize "flavors" (like blosxom), although my implementation is not totally complete. The rest of the time was just wiring up a bit of code using ruby's RSS library (which took all of a half-hour or so). Then, I made links appear on the site, which required one template update and one code change (bummer).

For now, I'm serving up full HTML (from what I've read, that's A Bad Thing). It will have to do for a while, unless I get around to writing some sanitization code for HTML, which, to be honest, isn't bloodly likely.

Now, both of my readers can use aggregators to obtain my priceless content. Note that if you want to subscribe to only a given category, you can do that: just navigate to the category and click the RSS link at the top of the page, near the breadcrumb.

I'll be releasing a new version of gemcast with the RSS code soon - I just have to scour the code for any ugliness I created in the rush to get RSS working.

Posted: Sun Aug 21 16:27:17 -0700 2005

/Programming/Projects/Gemcast Gemcast 0.1.0 Available

I've done some major refactorings in gemcast, the Ruby-based weblog engine that runs this site. I've rewritten some pieces, and added new features here and there.

The two main new features are a "Top" entry for the Categories sidebar, and the ability to display a single weblog entry, like this. This latter feature I'll be able to use for "real" permalinks (although they'll only be permanent if I don't move or rename my blog entries), rather than the anchor hack that I was using before (and that stopped working as soon as the entry scrolled off the bottom of the blog). As a side-effect of the latter, I've also started down the road of making gemcast's URLs compatible with blosxom's URLs, which is reasonable, given that gemcast is a ruby-based knock-off of blosxom.

Read more about gemcast here.

Download gemcast 0.1.0

Posted: Sun Aug 14 17:25:27 -0700 2005

/Books A Little Light Vacation Reading

While in Oregon I managed to knock a couple of books off the pile: The Religion War, by Scott Adams, and Atheism: A Very Short Introduction, by Julian Baggini.

I think about God a lot. Not in a worshipful way, but in a curious way: why do humans tend to want/need to believe in some mysterious personality running the universe? Why do folks that are seemingly rational in every other way, throw it out the window when it comes to religion? Is there a God, and if there is, why would it have to be the way humans have characterized it? Isn't God more a reflection of our fears and desires than an actual picture of reality?

Well, Atheism: A Very Short Introduction doesn't provide any answers to those questions (nor did I expect it to). It's kind of a work of atheist apologetics, a short course in the anti-belief (not anti-god) arguments that exist. If you've done much philosophical or theological reading at all, none of the arguments will be new to you. It was a quick, enjoyable read, and kind of nice to have the arguments available in a short format, but I felt that some of the arguments were not presented as forcefully as they could have been. Perhaps that's due to the limitations of the "very short introduction" format.

One useful tidbit I gleaned from the book is that (at least according to the writer) christian apologetics is not really useful in proving the existence of God or promoting belief, but is more geared to attempting to show that belief in God is not completely inconsistent with rationality. In other words, apologetics is preaching to the choir.

- o O o -

The Religion War actually suggests some interesting answers to the questions I ponder. It's another thought-provoking book from Scott Adams, who seems to like to cleanse his palate with a bit of philosophy in between the "Dilbert" books and comics. This book is sort-of a sequel to God's Debris, his first short-form foray into philosophy, cosmology and theology.

The setting is earth, approximately 30 years from about now, when the Christians and Muslims have raised the stakes of their religious war to global, all-encompassing proportions. The leaders of each side, each absolutely convinced that he knows the will of God, and indeed that God is on his side, are locked in a struggle of wills and weaponry.

The narrative of the story concerns how the strife is resolved, but that's not as interesting as the proposals about the nature of reality and "god" that are thrown in almost as an afterthought in various exchanges between "the Avatar" (AKA "the smartest person in the universe) and other characters. The interesting thing is that Adams manages to challenge conventional beliefs about, and conceptions of, God without coming off as overly antagonistic to any particular side (but that's coming from me, and I'm impossible to offend in this area).

Posted: Wed Aug 10 21:14:47 -0700 2005

/Travels Oregon Trip Photos Posted

I've posted a bunch of photos of the Oregon trip. I've typed too much already tonight, so that's all I'm going to say about the Oregon trip, other than it was fun and activity-filled.

Wall, Japanese Garden, Portland [more pix]

Posted: Wed Aug 10 21:12:44 -0700 2005

/Programming OSCON 2005

I was in Portland last week for the O'Reilly Open Source Convention. It was a great time, as was the larger, 1+ week, vacation for myself and MB that wrapped around the convention (more on that in a different post).

I mostly concentrated on the ruby track, since I paid the entry fee myself, and by God, I'm gonna get as much ruby as possible! One more thing on ruby before I shut up about it - it definitely had the buzz at OSCON. No doubt about it. Much of it was fueled by Ruby on Rails, which is a shame (no reflection on Rails, per se). Ruby is good enough that it should be able to stand on its own, and Rails is just another good thing about it.

Anyway, I've posted some photos from the convention on (at the moment you can see a random photo directly on my flickr sidebar).

Posted: Sun Aug 07 21:36:23 -0700 2005

Thanks for visiting! Send comments to Mike Thomas.