October 21, 2005

Autumn Gold

Today was lovely, a really positive day. It was quiet, and I got the chance to hear two different interesting research talks, participate in a research discussion, and do a little writing of my own. For once I could forget about teaching, and luxuriate in learning about some interesting things that people have been researching.

In between the talks, I got to walk in the fresh air, and watch the wind swirl around some leaves, all lit up golden and green by the rays of sunshine that peeped from behind the clouds.

October 19, 2005

Evidence concerning intelligent design

Obviously, biology isn't my field. Being a computing lecturer, I probably know a little more about evolution than the average person, just because I'm from a scientific background and I like to peruse information about science in general, but I really don't know the details of the finer points of the arguments that evolutionists use to explain where we come from .

What I do know is that it makes me steaming mad to hear about all these school boards in the US who want to have intelligent design taught as a respectable alternative theory. There is no evidence for intelligent design. Everything I teach in my classroom, I can back up. Anytime I make an assertion, I can back it up with evidence. Any time that a student has a doubt about why something is like it is, either it's a typo in one of my slides - "Thanks very much for pointing that out, nice to know someone is awake :-) " - or I can either back it up right there with evidence from my own memory, or I can dig it up from other sources after classes.

How dare they try and teach something to children which doesn't have evidence to support it. Teach the controversy? Sure, take it to the religious studies classroom. The only theory that their "evidence" supports is the one that says that supporters of intelligent design aren't intelligent enough to understand the details of how evolution can result in the existence of complex creatures which look like they have been designed.

Also, being a computer scientist, one other point that bugs me is their logic. They aren't using it. They don't have evidence, all they seem to have is questions concerning things that evolution hasn't explained. That by itself is not evidence. You can't just deduce "there are questions still unanswered therefore this theory is all wrong". That's like someone pointing to the whole big "NP = P?" question and saying "Therefore complexity theory is wrong". It's not wrong, it's just got open research questions. Having open research questions is NORMAL for perfectly respectable theories.

So I was very amused to read this debate on Intelligent Design from The Abstract Factory, from a fellow computer scientist, exposing the flaws in their logic. Brilliant!

October 02, 2005

University Resource Usage Patterns

Here's a pattern:

A university removes (or decreases access to) a teaching resource that many staff use on their lecture courses.

Staff are cross about this because they still have the same goals for their courses as before but instead have to make do with less help available centrally from the University.

So staff resort to alternatives, and as the University isn't supplying the resources it used to, these require using extra resources, which have to come from the relevant department. This extra resource includes staff time, because most of the alternative resources take additional time to install and possibly to run.

University is happy it saved money. Departments are either cross because more money had to be spent, or not cross because they don't notice that the cost has manifested itself in the time spent by individual academic teaching staff. Staff are cross.

Wait, there's more.

The resource that got removed has a particularly obvious alternative resource. Lots of staff suddenly start using this alternative when the original resource got removed. The University has supplied no support for this alternative: no equipment, no guidelines, no help. Staff complain about the lack of support.

University complain that staff aren't using the alternative resource properly (gee I wonder why, with no support?) and moves to ban use of the alternative resource.

Much consternation and shouting ensue all over the university.

This results in (pick one):

  • University grudgingly provides limited support for alternative resource.
  • University reinstates original resource, but in much smaller quantities.
  • University bans alternative resource, and the above pattern repeats.