How many links does it take to get to the center of a Tera-pop?

Yes, I know we’re stretching now.  And the title is all Nathan Gilmour’s fault.

5 comments
Andrew
Andrew

Andrew Zimmerman-Jones seems to have skimped on historical research before pontificating about hacker ethics. His claim that "Most people use the term “hacker” to mean someone who breaks into a computer system in order to gain access to private information.." is almost vague enough to save him from blatant inaccuracy but not quite. Consider Merriam Webster which lists the following definitions "3: an expert at programming and solving problems with a computer 4: a person who illegally gains access to and sometimes tampers with information in a computer system" Anyone who took the trouble to read The Great Hacker Crackdown would see that the meaning of the term has been central to a political struggle between two groups of computer users, that is programmers versus security professionals for several decades. The book is free online at MIT: http://www.mit.edu/hacker/hacker.html so Zimmerman-Jones wouldn't have to shell out any money to acquaint himself with some of the actual history of the term before he ineptly summarises the work of others. Computer security professionals made a determined effort to redefine a term that arose as an accolade for anyone who was able to carry out McGyveresque modifications of code. United States copyright law did not initially impose copyright on software and computer "crimes" has to be invented, there were no legal prohibitions, these came later and at the behest of federal agencies anxious to find a mission for themselves. Zimmerman-Jones has fallen prey to a naturalisation fallacy, assuming that current legal provisions are natural; timeless, non-contingent and identical with morality. I'd expect more from a philosopher.

Nathan Gilmour
Nathan Gilmour

Dan and Robert, I finally got around to reading the Austin piece last night. (That was one of Michial's links.) I like the distinction between scientific theory (something that explains material phenomena) and philosophical assertion (something that answers "why" questions that are super-phenomenal). Incidentally (or not?), I'm actually teaching a new version of my "science series" to the teens at church and using a phenomenon/pattern/theory/big-picture schema to look at atomic theory, astronomy, biology, and social science. (We also do some Biblical study at each step, noting that the Bible is asking and answering different questions from what the scientists are.) I'd also like to see what you two think of the mini-essay on the aesthetics of evolution that I put in the middle of this spring's review of McLaren's latest. That review didn't get any comments (perhaps because folks weren't interested in McLaren's book), but I'm considering working that mini-essay into a full post later.

Dan Dawson
Dan Dawson

Robert, I'm certainly not one to defend the "Dumb Luck" narrative, and I certainly think that many scientists on the "evolution side" of the debate indeed do subscribe to this narrative and are apparently completely blind to the differences between this philosophy and the science of evolution itself. I also agree with you that this narrative is often assumed in science curricula. However, I don't necessarily agree with your last statement. I think the problem in the debate is *both* of those things you mentioned: there is indeed a serious lack of scientific understanding on the part of at least some in the ID camp, but there is also the other problem of the anti-ID crowd basically taking any attack on the philosophy behind Dumb Luck (which I would just call Philosophical Naturalism) as an attack on science, just as you said. I don't completely lack sympathy for the ID movement. I think any idea in science, no matter how well attested to by the evidence, is open to scrutiny, and ID deserves props for at least bringing some of these issues with evolutionary mechanisms up (even if I ultimately think they have so far been unsuccessful). During my intellectual trajectory from Hamian YEC, I briefly resonated with ID explanations, but eventually found them (at least in my estimation), scientifically lacking. I like to think that it wasn't because I found the narrative of Dumb Luck compelling. If anything, I have more of a problem with Philosophical Naturalism now than I did when I was a YEC, now that I see more clearly how much it has muddied the waters.

Robert
Robert

I was wondering how long it would be before Gilmour linked to that Deneen speech. Here's another ISI speech on one of your favorite authors ;) you'll dig: http://www.isi.org/lectures/lectures.aspx?SBy=lecture&SFor=da2945d5-6158-4eb4-93ef-4f9499db78cd RE: Austin, he's basically correct that ID is more "cosmic master narrative" than proper science. He's also correct that ID vs. evolution is a phony distinction. But the overall thrust of his argument seems to miss the reality underlying the debate altogether. What is contested in the debate (and what has always been contested all the way back to Skopes) is not ultimately the truth of the evolutionary mechanism, but the philosophical assumptions of the life sciences implicitly and explicitly taught through its curriculum, what he calls in his essay the cosmic master narrative of Dumb Luck. The debate is not so embarrassingly lacking because one side does not understand science, but because the other side cannot conceive of its assumptions and master narrative as anything but pure objectivity. Contesting them can only be understood as contesting science itself.

Dan D.
Dan D.

Wow, I think Michael Austin hit the nail on the head!