Friday, February 29, 2008
Bryan Appleyard on AI
'For this is a field where there are, for the moment, no convincing theories or conclusions. There has probably been more discussion of human consciousness in the past 50 years than there was in the previous 10 millenniums. But still we know, to a rough aproximation, nothing...For 50 years, scientists have been promising us artificial intelligence (AI)... But the prosaic truth is that AI is utterly stalled.' ('Machines have feelings, too')
In other words (and contrary to Appleyard's title), the attempt to reduce mind to body is, fundamentally speaking, a dead duck.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Doctor Who & Spirituality Event
'A conference on Spirituality and Doctor Who will be held at Wilson Carlile Campus in Sheffield, Yorkshire on Saturday, April 19. According to the day's organizers, "Christian themes and images in Doctor Who - both classic and new - will be explored. But there will also be a respectful look at other shades and faiths in Doctor Who, including ecological and Buddhist themes in the Jon Pertwee era, mystic parables in the Peter Davison era and the optimistic atheism of current Doctor Who creator Russell T Davies." Barry Letts, producer of Doctor Who from 1970 to 1975, is one of the confirmed guests for the event. There is a press release here, and online sign-up is available here.'
Another confirmed guest is yours truly, due to my co-authorship of Back in Time: A Thinking Fan's Guide to Doctor Who.
Here is the text of the press release:
'SHEFFIELD, UK (ANS) -- Why is the new version of Doctor Who on BBC TV such a huge success, with ratings going through the roof, regular Christmas specials and episodes commissioned up to 2010? Is it the strength of the acting and writing? The state-of-the-art special effects? The family appeal? The monsters and sense of imagination? Yes, it is all of these things. But maybe the series is also touching people’s need for - and understanding of - myth and spirituality.
On Saturday, April 19th, 2008, Wilson Carlile Campus (the Church Army training college in Sheffield), will be hosting a day on “Spirituality and Doctor Who.” The day will be organized and compèred by Andrew Wooding, a Church Army worker who has been a Doctor Who fanatic since Jon Pertwee first fell out of the TARDIS back in January 1970. Andrew has written seven books, leads creative writing workshops round the world and has lectured in film and media studies.
Christian themes and images in Doctor Who – both classic and new – will be explored. But there will also be a respectful look at other shades and faiths in Doctor Who, including ecological and Buddhist themes in the Jon Pertwee era, mystic parables in the Peter Davison era and the optimistic atheism of current Doctor Who creator Russell T Davies.
Confirmed guests include:
* Barry Letts, the producer of Doctor Who from 1970 to 1975, who oversaw the classic Jon Pertwee era, Russell T Davies’ favorite period of the show. Barry Letts’ parting act on Doctor Who was to cast Tom Baker in the role and produce his debut story. Barry writes openly about spiritual themes in the program in Who and Me, the first installment of his candid and compulsive memoirs (available at www.whoandme.net).
* Anthony Thacker, a Baptist minister and author of the acclaimed book Behind the Sofa: A Closer Look at “Dr Who.” The cover blurb reads: “The Doctor Who series has taken the BBC by storm, with millions of viewers and multiple awards. This book discovers the spiritual themes behind the series, as well as facts about classic Doctor Who.”
* Peter S Williams of the Damaris Trust, who is co-author of Back in Time: A Thinking Fan’s Guide to Doctor Who. Peter is a popular speaker and prolific author, and he will be giving an interactive presentation on 'Meaningful Monsters: Daleks Through the Decades'.
Whatever your faith or worldview, come and bring your opinion. We want to learn from you in an open, respectful and fun environment, as well as explore together how to engage with and learn from modern cultural phenomena such as Doctor Who.
The cost for attending the day, which includes lunch, is £25. To book, please contact Wendy Evans at Wilson Carlile Campus, 50 Cavendish Street, Sheffield S3 7RZ, email email@example.com, telephone number: + 44 (0) 114 278 7020
The organizer, Andrew Wooding, can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org'
Sunday, February 03, 2008
Brian Green's Dangerous Multiverse Science-Stopper
Faced with the design argument from the fine tuning of the cosmos, many atheists retreat to an ad hoc multiplication of the available probabilistic resources called the 'many worlds' or 'multiverse' hypothesis. However,as Brian Green, physicist and mathematician at Columbia University, and author of The Fabric of the Cosmos, points out, positing unlimited probabilistic resources is a science stopper (which, interestingly, is often an accusation laid at the doorstep of ID):
[i] Brian Green, ‘The Multiverse’, John Brockman (ed.), What’s Your Dangerous Idea?, (Pocket Books, 2006), p. 120-121.