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A fish with wide open mouth and big eyes, Surprised, shocked or amazed face front view

Is Dembski’s Explanatory Filter the Most Widely Used Theory Ever?

It turns out that legions of critics of the Filter use it all the time, without noticing

William Dembski created quite a stir in the world of information theory with his book The Design Inference. For the first time, he outlined a rigorous method for identifying design, which he called the explanatory filter. Since then many critics have claimed that Dembski’s proposed filter is without merit due to the lack of application in the couple of decades since its invention. But, are the critics right, or are they wrong—wrong in the way that a fish doesn’t recognize water because water is the very atmosphere of the fish’s existence? Let us first remind ourselves of Dembski’s explanatory filter. His filter proceeds in three main steps. Eliminate events of large probability (necessity) Eliminate events of medium probability (chance) Specify…

falling pills

COVID-19 Drives the Latest Proposal for a “Morality Pill”

Those who don't comply with government policy would be urged or forced to take it

University of Western Michigan philosophy professor Parker Crutchfield (pictured) recently suggested getting people to take a pill to promote more “pro-social” behavior in order to better fight off COVID-19. He argues that the United States is not equipped for a fight against the disease just by expecting everyone to work together, as in, say, World Wars I and II: It seems that the U.S. is not currently equipped to cooperatively lower the risk confronting us. Many are instead pinning their hopes on the rapid development and distribution of an enhancement to the immune system—a vaccine. But I believe society may be better off, both in the short term as well as the long, by boosting not the body’s ability to…

Wolf Spider

Why Do We Fear Spiders More Than Bees?

It’s a peculiarity of human psychology that science fiction writers have exploited

Children of Time, the novel that won the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award for Adrian Tchaikovsky in 2016, featured a classic science fiction theme: Humanity faces a superior civilization—in this case, a civilization of intelligent spiders. The novel uses and reimagines familiar science fiction conceits – terraforming, superintelligence, a decaying starship – in a story that interweaves the development of an empire of spiders accidentally gifted intelligence with the descent into barbarism of a starship crew searching for a new home. Its thoughtful depiction of two civilisations trying to understand each other cleverly inverts the usual narrative of planetary conquest, and features startling moments of cognitive estrangement during clashes with the alien, yet sympathetically drawn, spiders. Paul Mcauley, “Tale of…

F-16 Fighter Jet

DARPA Has Scheduled AI vs. AI Aerial Dogfights for Next Week

A round robin tournament will select the AI that faces off against a human pilot Thursday

Forbes reports a simulated aerial dogfight will be held next week and we can watch it live: “The action will kick off Tuesday with AI vs. AI dogfights, featuring eight teams that developed algorithms to control a simulated F-16, leading to a round robin tournament that will select one to face off against a human pilot Thursday between 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. EDT. You can register to watch the action online. DARPA adds that a “multi-view format will afford viewers comprehensive perspectives of the dogfights in real-time and feature experts and guests from the Control Zone, akin to a TV sports commentary desk. “With remarks from officials including USAF Colonel Daniel “Animal” Javorsek, head of the ACE program, recaps of…

constructed face and skeleton.jpg
Skin flaking off face, reveals skull, robotic head. 3d render

Is Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity Nearer or Still Impossible?

AI might help us unlock our potential, a panel concludes, but it won’t take over
A panel of experts wrestle with Ray Kurzweil's prediction at the COSM 2019 Technology Summit that we will merge with our computers by 2045 — The Singularity. Read More ›
group of people swims in a mud

Why Consciousness Couldn’t Just Evolve from the Mud

Kastrup, a panpsychist, is sympathetic to the basic intuitions behind the idea that there is design in nature (intelligent design theory)
In a recent podcast, “Does the Moon Exist if No One is Looking at It?”, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor interviewed philosopher and computer programmer Bernardo Kastrup. Dr. Kastrup has been, in Dr. Egnor’s words, “leading a modern renaissance of metaphysical idealism”—that is, reality is essentially mental rather than physical. Read More ›
Jumping spider close up. Macro photography. Portrait of spider

In What Ways Are Spiders Intelligent?

The ability to perform simple cognitive functions does not appear to depend on the vertebrate brain as such

This year saw a huge uproar in science media over claims that prominent researcher of spider behavior Jonathan Pruitt, a behavioral ecologist currently at McMaster University in Canada, had fabricated evidence of complex, seemingly intelligent behavior in spiders. After many colleagues recently raised concerns in blogs and tweets that behavioral ecologist Jonathan Pruitt had fabricated the data behind a slew of provocative results regarding animal personalities and social spiders, he denied the charges, saying any problems were inadvertent mistakes. Elizabeth Pennisi, “Embattled spider biologist seeks to delay additional retractions of problematic papers” at Science (March 12, 2020) Some of Pruitt’s data management mistakes seem rather curious: More than 20 scientists — co-authors, peers and other interested observers in the field…

senior woman with family photo on tablet pc screen

What Neuroscientists Now Know About How Memories Are Born and Die

Where, exactly are our memories? Are modern media destroying them? Could we erase them if we wanted to?

At one time, neuroscientists believed that there must be a “seat” of memory in the brain, something like a room with a door marked Memory. They settled on two structures called hippocampi, on either side of the brain’s base. The illustration shows the the hippocampus of the right hemisphere (public domain). But memories turned out to have no fixed address. Neuroscientist Matthew Cobb, author of The Idea of the Brain (2020, excerpt here), tells us, But the hippocampuses are not the site of memory storage. Rather, these brain regions are the encoders and the routes through which memory formation seems to pass. The memories that are processed by the hippocampuses seem to be distributed across distant regions of the brain.…

hemispheres of brain.jpg
Creative background, the human brain on a blue background, the hemisphere is responsible for logic, and responsible for creativity. different hemispheres of the brain, 3D illustration, 3D render

Why the Mind Can’t Just Be the Brain

Thinking it through carefully, the idea doesn't even make sense

Philosopher Roger Scruton (1944–2020) defined neuroscience thus (I paraphrase): Neuroscience is a huge collection of answers with no memory of the questions. Over the past century, neuroscientists have amassed vast libraries of data. But their interpretation of their data on the mind-brain question shows no meaningful understanding of the genuine questions their research is tasked to answer. These questions are ancient: What is the relationship between the soul (or mind) and the body (or brain)? How is it that matter can think? How is it that third-person stuff gives rise to first-person experience? Answers to such questions from the neuroscience community show little evidence of the profound and subtle nature of the questions. Thus, neuroscientists provide answers to questions they…

tropical hurricane approaching the USA.Elements of this image are furnished by NASA.

Female Hurricanes: How A Mass of Hot Air Became a Zombie Study

When a reporter first asked me about a study claiming that “Female Hurricanes are Deadlier than Male Hurricanes,” I was skeptical

It is once again hurricane season on the East Coast and social media are reliably abuzz with reports of a debunked study that claimed that hurricanes given feminine-sounding names are deadlier than those given masculine-sounding names. (Full disclosure: I was one of the debunkers.) When a reporter initially asked me about this study, titled “Female Hurricanes are Deadlier than Male Hurricanes,” I was skeptical. Hurricane names alternate between female and male on a schedule set before the hurricane season begins so any relationship between name and death toll was surely coincidental. I looked at the study and discovered that the authors were not arguing that female hurricanes are inherently deadlier but that sexist humans die because they don’t take female…

Rear view of Asian woman working and online meeting via video conference with colleague

How to Teach and Hold Meetings in “Mixed Mode” in the COVID Era

Teachers and facilitators face a challenge when some students are online in quarantine and some are in front of them in person
In the current COVID-19 environment, the economy may be opening up but some people are still sick or in quarantine. This means that more and more meetings are run in a mixed mode — a combination of in-person and online participants. Read More ›
Technology addicted family: parents and child use laptop and mobile phones. Modern family values - Mom, dad with daughter obsessed with devices overuse social media, internet addiction concept.

If New Tech Enhances Our Lives, Why Does It Make Us Crazy?

It doesn’t have to. Let’s think this through

It has never been easier to connect but somehow we don’t. Andrew McDiarmid, author of the blog Thinking and thriving in the digital age, asks us to consider why loneliness (and suicide) have accompanied the rise of new communications technology. And he offers a challenge: Here are just a few questions to ask yourself about each tech tool you have. Is using this tool a wise use of my time? Does it encourage me to think for myself? Does it enable me to use my God-given abilities and spiritual gifts? Does it help me accomplish what God wants me to do? Does using this tech compromise my witness to others by causing me to stumble or get distracted? Does it…

Futuristic Science Fiction Bedroom Interior with Planet Earth View in Space Station, 3D Rendering

When Science Fiction Comes to Life…

Truth is not only stranger than fiction, it sometimes grows out of it

A senior editor at Wired told us a while back that science fiction writer H. G. Wells’s 1914 tale, The World Set Free, formed part of the inspiration for the atomic bomb, exploded over Hiroshima in 1945. … in the novel Wells imagines a new kind of bomb, based on a nuclear chain reaction. In this science fiction story Wells imagines that atomic energy would be discovered in 1933 (20 years in his future), and that the bomb would first explode in 1956. Wikipedia notes, “As fate or coincidence would have it, in reality the physicist Leó Szilárd read the book in 1932, conceived of the idea of nuclear chain reaction in 1933, and filed for patents on it in…

Augmented reality application for retail business concept. Hand holding smart phone with A/R application on screen to finding interested product in the store.

The Amazing Things We Can Do with Virtual and Augmented Reality

The “father of virtual reality,” Thomas Furness, talks to Robert J. Marks about his vision for the future

In a recent podcast, “Robert J. Marks and Thomas Furness on VR and AR,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks continued his discussion with the “grandfather of virtual reality,” Thomas Furness. They focused on the cutting edge of virtual reality today. Transcript. Partial transcript: Robert J. Marks: So, Dr. Furness, we have been talking about a number of fascinating things, but there’s still some things that I’d like to talk to you about. Another one is ARToolworks. Now, AR stands for augmented reality. Thomas Furness: Now, the difference really is between the VRs generally, where you are completely immersed in a computer-generated environment. That’s all you see is the computer generation of images. AR, on the other hand,…

red lifeboat

Business Prof: Stop It! The World is NOT Running Out of Stuff!

A famous bet between two top thinkers settled that a long time ago

Recently, Jay Richards interviewed Dr. Gale Pooley, Professor of Economics at BYU-Hawaii, on the myth that we are running out of resources and doomed to future scarcity. Even though media pundits often claim it is true, the numbers say it is a myth. The story begins with a famous bet between two professors… From the interview: The bet was whether basic commodity prices would rise between September 29, 1980 and September 29, 1990. The professors who made the bet were Stanford insect biologist Paul Ehrlich (1932–), author of bestseller The Population Bomb (1968), and economist Julian Simon (1932–1998) Ehrlich bet yes and Simon bet no. Gale Pooley: First of all, what was interesting about Julian Simon, he reads Ehrlich’s book…

Antibiotic resistant bacteria inside a biofilm, 3D illustration. Biofilm is a community of bacteria where they aquire antibiotic resistance and communicate with each other by quorum sensing molecules

In What Ways Are Bacteria Intelligent?

As antibiotic resistance grows, researchers are discovering that these microbes are not just single, simple cells

Recently, Princeton University physicist Robert Austin challenged his graduate student Trung Phan to design a maze that he (Austin) couldn’t solve: Austin, Phan discovered, tended to retrace his steps when he encountered a dead end. So Tran decided on a maze without dead ends. The true purpose of the experiment, as Sophia Chen recounts at Wired, was to design a maze that bacteria can solve with remarkable skill based on their colony organization which, if you like, stands in for a brain: Curiously, bacteria—single-celled organisms that are among the simplest living things—are well known for working together, creating problem-solving units that are more than the sum of their parts. For example, to protect themselves from your immune system, the bacteria…

Atomic Bomb Dome Panorama in Hiroshima
The Atomic Bomb Dome Panorama in Hiroshima and the surounding garden in autumn at sunset on the side of Motoyasu River in Japan, with the Peace Memorial Park

Stark Lessons from the 75th Anniversary of the Atomic Bomb

Nuclear weapons have not been used to destroy a city since Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Seventy-five years ago today an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Einstein’s equation E=mc2 showed that 700 milligrams of mass (m), less than a third of the weight of a US dime, could be converted to enough energy (E) to destroy a Japanese city. The atomic bomb ended WWII. Advanced technology such as the atomic bomb not only wins wars but gives pause to otherwise aggressive adversaries. For this reason, I argue in my book, The Case for Killer Robots,that the United States must continue to develop cutting edge lethal AI for military use. As described in John Hersey’s essay “Hiroshima” in the New Yorker (1946), the effects of the atomic bomb were horrifying for the civilian population. Human beings…

Dog playing the shell game with her human. Concept of training pets, domestic dogs being smart and educated

In What Ways Are Dogs Intelligent?

There is no human counterpart to some types of dog intelligence

At Gizmodo recently, George Dvorsky adopted the useful, though somewhat unusual, strategy of determining dog intelligence by focusing on what dogs can’t do. He starts with the premise, as put by University of Exeter psychology professor (and dog expert) Stephen Lea, who says that domestication “has radically altered the intelligence of dogs.” Not so much raised or lowered it as changed its nature from the type of intelligence we would expect from a wolf: “Dogs are very good at what they’re bred to do — they’re excellent at doing those things, and in some cases even better than other species we think are intelligent, such as chimps and bonobos,” Zachary Silver, a PhD student from the Comparative Cognitive Lab at…

Engineering students using a 3D printer

Why Engineering Can’t Be Reduced to the Laws of Physics

When we reduce the engineer’s mind to a computer, the source of innovation disappears

The fundamental problem of modern science is the problem of innovation. Where does novelty come from? This problem shows up in physics, biology, artificial intelligence, and economics. Within physics, the problem is how to account for the fundamental constants of reality. They are all precisely tuned to make sentient and intelligent life—life that can learn about itself and the universe—possible through science. Within biology, the problem is accounting for the source of highly complex genetic sequences that express finely tuned biological functions. In artificial intelligence, the challenge is identifying solutions that are relevant to a given scenario. In economics the problem is identifying the right products for the market. What do all these situations have in common? In each case,…

Atomic Bomb Dome Panorama in Hiroshima
The Atomic Bomb Dome Panorama in Hiroshima and the surounding garden in autumn at sunset on the side of Motoyasu River in Japan, with the Peace Memorial Park

Does Government Watch Us on Social Media? Yes… So Does Business

They may all be getting to know you way better than you feel comfortable with

Discerning public opinion on political and national security issues via social media platforms showed its worth during the Arab Spring of 2010. The protests, which began in Tunisia, spread throughout the Middle East, where social media were the key platform for expressing anger about corruption, poverty, human rights violations, unemployment, and authoritarianism. These protests resulted in changes to leadership and policy in Libya, Egypt, and Yemen. They also resulted in immigration issues and sadly, even terror attacks, military conflicts, and civil war. Social media not only enables coordinated action such as rallies, strikes, resistance, riots, and other methods of activism but also provides status reports and communicates outcomes. One research team has developed an AI metric for predicting such events:…