Monday, December 31, 2007

Optihumanist Principles 2007

As is my annual tradition, I have updated my Optihumanist Principles for the year 2007. I think the wording gets a bit smoother each year.

Happy New Year to all. If you have not already done so already, I encourage you to make a New Year's Resolution. I think this is a fine tradition.


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Creeping Theocracy

I have uploaded the transcripts of the State House floor debate regarding the recent bill which added "under God" to the Texas state pledge. You can find them from the links on my State Pledge webpage. The first transcript is pretty funny as the legislators debate whether Texas is "indivisible" or not.

The second is more serious. The sponsor of the bill is questioned by the other representatives as to whether the purpose of her bill is religious or not. She responds by referring to the inscription above her. It is not apparent from reading the transcript but she means the words "In God We Trust" which were just recently carved into the archway overlooking the House floor.

The other justification she gives for adding "under God" is that she wants the state pledge to mirror the national pledge. This is a type of argument I have heard before: "we have previously permitted similar infringements so this new one is just more of the same." I call this Creeping Theocracy.


Friday, November 30, 2007

Flesh and Machines

I just finished reading Flesh and Machines: How Robots Will Change Us by Rodney A. Brooks, CTO of iRobot. After reading this, I now understand the behavior of my robot vacuum cleaner Roomba a bit better. I was pleased to see that the final chapter covered neuroprosthetics, something I had been studying recently, and the possibility of physical immortality in the future. He closes with "The distinction between us and robots is going to disappear."

I started reading this book a couple of years ago. I remember reading it while sitting in the waiting room as my wife Shannon was getting her checkup for her pregnancy with our son Abe. I picked it up to finish it today as I have decided to integrate robotics into my doctoral research. I bought a LEGO Mindstorms NXT robot and started playing with it. I hope to demonstrate robotic control using spiking neuronal networks (SNNs).


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Nerd Test


I am nerdier than 82% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!

Monday, September 24, 2007

State Pledge

On 2007 August 7th, the same day that a judge heard oral arguments on our moment of silence lawsuit, our attorney filed a new lawsuit on behalf of my family and another North Texas family challenging the constitutionality of a new law adding the words "under God" to the Texas state pledge.

On 2007 August 28th, a few days after the school year started when the new state pledge law went into effect, another judge denied our request for a preliminary injunction. The case proceeds but a hearing date has not yet been set.

For a list of links to news stories on this topic, please see my new State Pledge webpage. Please also see the related blog entries by my wife Shannon and our attorney Dean Cook.

Mr. Cook informed me recently that the transcripts for the Moment of Silence oral arguments are now available, indicating that we might have a ruling from the judge soon. I hope to post a copy of the transcripts as I was quite impressed with what Mr. Cook said to the judge, particularly in his summary.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Media Moment

I have updated the list of news stories on the Moment of Silence webpage to include those related to the recent oral arguments hearing. I also posted some corrections to errors in the original story which were repeated by other media.

To the supernaturalists who sent us numerous e-mail, voice mail, snail mail, and blog comment messages recently, I respond by recommending the very short book Letter to a Christian Nation by neuroscience doctoral student Sam Harris. It reminded me of Age of Reason by founding father Thomas Paine.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Debate Transcripts

A judge will hear oral arguments for the Texas Moment of Silence case on July 20th. Tonight I uploaded the transcripts of the 2003 legislative debates. One of my purposes in having these debates transcribed was to show that this new law is really about mandating organized silent prayer in the public schools.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Peer Screwed

Today I heard a story about how some scientists deliberately planted an error in a draft paper to throw off the research of competing scientists who they knew would steal the information during the peer review publication process. In reading the history of science, I know of a number of famous cases where proper credit was not given where due for ideas taken from papers blocked or delayed for publication. I recently conceived of a pithy saying for this which I wanted to share with you:

Peer Reviewed is Peer Screwed.

The peer review system is flawed in that your peers are your jealous competitors, not fair and impartial judges of scientific merit. Instead of publishing, consider patenting. Patents permit you to publish your knowledge to the world with the patent agent serving as the unbiased reviewer to determine whether the invention is actually novel, useful, and nonobvious.

If your idea does not qualify as an invention, you can always self-publish it to your personal website. I am proud enough of the above non-invention to have added it to my webpage of quotes.



Update 2010 Oct 08 Fri

I just learned of a new trend toward Open Peer Review which might fix some of the problems in the peer review process as traditionally practiced.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Nerve Endings

In my previous entry about the book In Search of Memory, I wrote "one of the best ways to learn a science is to learn the history of that science". I recently finished reading another book in that category, Nerve Endings: The Discovery of the Synapse by Dr. Richard Rapport. Like In Search of Memory, Nerve Endings is a biographical work about the life and scientific contributions of a Nobel prizing winning neuroscientist. The author documents the 19th century debate about the existence and purpose of the synapse and the personal rivalry between Dr. Santiago Ramon y Cajal and Dr. Camillo Golgi.

The following excerpt reminded me how much I have enjoyed participating in reading and discussion groups over the years:

He delighted in his work, as always, and enthusiastically returned to an intellectual cafe society with other scientists, philosophers, writers, and politicians. Associations of friends who meet regularly to debate are called tertulia, a Spanish word without a direct English translation but a common feature of Spanish intellectual life. [p152]

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Resveratrol

I had been drinking pinot noir to get my daily dose of resveratrol but recently I switched to taking it in 100 milligram (mg) capsules. I ordered my supply from the Life Extension Foundation. I made this decision after watching The Science of Living Longer: Part Three of the Charlie Rose Science Series.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Oral Arguments

It has been quiet for awhile but there has been a new development in the Moment of Silence case which we initiated a little more than a year ago. The judge has asked for oral arguments to be presented on June 1st.

I hope the judge strikes this down pretty quick as moment of silence bills have been popping up in additional states such as Illinois. To have millions of public school children waste a minute of education each day for a practice that has no secular purpose seems to me like a great sin.


The God Delusion

In my recent blog entry In the Absence of God, I recommended the NPR interview of Julia Sweeney on the subject of her atheism. I just finished listening to another worthwhile interview published today from the same source, Richard Dawkins Explains 'The God Delusion'.

I found particularly interesting his thoughts on the evolution of morality. My religion Optihumanism, including what I am calling "genetic egoism", has been substantially influenced by my reading of earlier books by Dr. Dawkins. I ordered a copy of his latest today.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Word Clouds

My sister-in-law Heather wrote a blog entry introducing us to SnapShirts word clouds. My wife Shannon ran it on our website CroftPress and I ran it on my blog and CroftSoft. Here is what it generated.




Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Shermer Interview

I enjoyed reading an interview of Michael Shermer recently by the neo-Objectivist organization The Atlas Society in its magazine "The New Individualist" (TNI). Shermer and the interviewer cover topics on libertarianism versus Objectivism, neo-Objectivism versus orthodox Objectivism, socialist Humanism versus libertarian Humanism, and a little bit of what I have labeled "genetic egoism". In reading this article, you might see why I felt I had to come up with a new term, Optihumanism, to describe the set of beliefs that I hold at the intersection of libertarianism, Objectivism, and Humanism.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Vongo

If you are a Blockbuster Total Access or a Netflix subscriber, consider Vongo instead. I have used Vongo for a few weeks now and I am a satisfied customer. It lets you download movies off of their website to watch on your computer for a flat fee of $9.99 per month. I have been waiting for something like this for years. Things just keep getting better and better.