Posts by Bart Janssen

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  • Hard News: Belief Media, in reply to 3410,

    Isn’t it the case that we can judge the efficiency or inefficiency only if we know what the goal is, which we don’t?

    Again nah. There are lots of examples now of biological systems that have no purpose that anyone can figure out. Sure you can always argue that it has a purpose which we haven't tested but that eventually becomes kinda silly.

    Complexity has a value in biological systems but there are cases where the complexity exists because of the way it evolved and now simply remains because there is no driver to make an "efficient" system.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4145 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Belief Media, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    Sometimes it seems that evolution selects for the most inefficient solutions.

    Hell yeah!

    I love it when folks say “look that gene is expressed there it MUST be doing something important” whereas it usually turns out to be doing nothing, there was just no reason to turn it off. Like saying “the light is on there must be someone in the room”.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4145 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Belief Media, in reply to BenWilson,

    they value a principle like Occam’s Razor very highly

    Yeah, nah.

    I'm a plant developmental biologist. That means I try and figure out how you go from seed to plant and back, my personal question of interest is how does a plant choose which bud grows out to make a branch - someday I might try and explain that all here :).

    In my field it is absolutely unquestionably clear that Occam was a moron who knew nothing about the real world. As we understand more and more about how organisms work it is clear that simple is irrelevant. Complex networks with multiple redundancy and legacy elements that serve no current purpose are the rule not the exception. Every possible method of regulation we can think of exists and new ones we'd never thought of are constantly being unravelled. Efficiency means almost nothing, evolution is amazing but it is far from efficient.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4145 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Belief Media, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    would have “faith” in the ability of the scientific process to find all, eventually

    For everyone it's a different balance. Hebe is exactly right, it's about shades of grey and a continuum of experience and belief.

    For me there is an unpleasant dissonance in the idea of looking for evidence and basing decision making on evidence and the faith involved in religion. But that is for me, there are many scientists for whom that dissonance does not exist at all or exists to a different degree.

    But to be picky, it is often said that scientists have a "faith" in the scientific process. Again for some that may be true but the more common understanding is that the scientific method and science as a whole is about discovery of facts, testing of hypotheses, observing results and basing new hypotheses only on valid observations. The only reason we use that method is because it works pretty well, that I'm writing this on a computer and you are probably reading this on an LCD is a direct product of that approach to the universe.

    That isn't a faith, it is an approach to dealing with the unknown. Instead of making up a story about the unknown the scientific approach says "we don't know" and leaves it at that. We can postulate hypotheses but their only purpose is to define the next experimental test. Scientists don't (or shouldn't) "have faith" in a hypothesis, far from it, we instead try our damdest to punch holes in the hypothesis.

    That's where my personal discomfort with religion lies.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4145 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Belief Media, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    I’m sure any scientist would tell you that if you look into the nature of absolutely anything deep enough, you will find a point beyond current knowledge and understanding.
    People with faith don’t have this particular problem.

    While it's true that science probably has a higher percentage of agnostics and atheists than other professions there are a significant number of scientists who have faith in some kind of god AND enjoy the wonder of looking as deep into reality as they can.

    For me it creates a cognitive dissonance but that isn't true for all scientists by any measure.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4145 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Belief Media, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    I didn’t know that.

    It's one of those safety habits most scientists get taught. If you wear a lab coat it's because what you are working with has some potential hazard OR what you are working with should be contained in the lab. It then becomes obvious that you don't wear the same lab coat out of the lab, say, to pick up and hug your kids. So good lab practice has lab coats never leaving the lab, it does depend a little on the kind of work you are doing.

    But for someone with my training it's something instinctively "wrong".

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4145 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Belief Media, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    When I discovered that Petra Bagust was a Christian, the Devil in me thought
    “What a shame”

    When she walked into the lift at work I thought "she is really tall" and then "WTF is she wearing a lab coat for ... and doesn't she know they should not be worn in the lift"

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4145 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Belief Media,

    I have always felt that by the time someone has reached their late teens (I'm approaching that now) they've established a world view that either does (most people) or does not (a minority) allow them to function as part of society.

    Dealing with those who have not established a world view that works for them it takes a skilled professional to help them find a path, it's not a job for amateurs.

    For me that leads very simply to the concept that actively trying to disrupt someones belief system is not a nice thing to do to someone. That's where I get grumpy with organised religion as an entity. I have no problem with anyone believing anything if it makes them happy and does no harm to others. But if they try and convert another person ... then I don't think that's a nice thing.

    I know my parents loved the religious freedom they had when they immigrated, in their case the freedom to have no religion. And while I have no religion, I like that in my suburb (Mt Roskill) there is just about every religious group you can think of, and they all seem to get along and cook for each other. As an aside why do we only have a cross on Mt Roskill, why aren't there 27 other symbols up there, or none?

    To me that's an important part of being a New Zealander (whatever that is), the idea that it's OK if your neighbour thinks something different from you so long as your kids can still play together without causing too much damage to the vege garden.

    If that diversity and tolerance plays out in the media then that has to be a good thing, doesn't it?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4145 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The Golden Mile,

    It doesn't take long in Newmarket to see that being a retailer in the self proclaimed golden mile is not an easy row to hoe. Back street shops open up presumably because the lease is cheaper on the back street. Maintaining a main street medium sized store seems to require a rock solid product line and very deep corporate backing to cover any fluctuations.

    I like parts of Newmarket but I really don't see any need for more than one street like that in Auckland. I'd much rather see Queen street become something different.

    Perhaps having Queen street become something even uniquely New Zealand with a blend of cultural approaches to shops might not be the worst thing to happen. Heck a really adventurous council could actively encourage it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4145 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: One man’s Meat Puppets is…, in reply to Tom Beard,

    Then this should reach it quickly.

    Made it to the 1 minute mark

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4145 posts Report Reply

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