Category Archives: Science

An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design.

Bradley Monton.
An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design.
Talks to RSS.

Friday 29th March (Good Friday), 5:30pm
Biology Building BLT100
 

About the book: 
The doctrine of intelligent design is often the subject of acrimonious debate. Seeking God in Science cuts through the rhetoric that distorts the debates between religious and secular camps. Bradley Monton, a philosopher of science and an atheist, carefully considers the arguments for intelligent design and argues that intelligent design deserves serious consideration as a 
scientific theory. Monton also gives a lucid account of the debate surrounding the inclusion of intelligent design in public schools and presents reason why students’ science education could benefit from a careful consideration of the arguments for and against it.

 

 

 

UPDATE: Here is the audio and handouts from the seminar Dr Monton gave: 

 

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What is wrong with Intelligent Design?

Tuesday 28th May, 6pm, Arts 1 room 315

One of our members will present a reply or follow on discussion from Bradley Monton’s earlier presentation.

“What is wrong with Intelligent Design” will explore the history of the movement to demonstrate that the reality of Intelligent Design is, what the biological arguments are and why it should not be included in the public (or even private) science education system below the Tertiary level.

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The Universe from Nothing

Tuesday 21st May, 5:30pm, Arts 1 room 315

We watch a Lawrence Krauss talk/documentary

Physicist Lawrence Krauss considers that the information recoverable by any civilization over the entire history of our universe is finite in an ever-expanding universe.

Jeff Talon on Science versus Christianity

Sunday 5th May

10:15 am 

Shadows Tavern (on campus)

Hosted by Auckland Evangelical Church http://aucklandev.co.nz 

Doesn’t science disprove Christianity?

Either way, are you sure? Sure enough to bet your life on it?
At least give one of NZ’s top Physicists a chance to explain how he sees the two as inseparable.

Professor Jeff Tallon is one of New Zealand’s most distinguished physicists, internationally known for research which revolutionised the field of high temperature superconductors.
Current research interests extend to nanotechnology, high pressure physics, and materials science.
Jeff has received numerous awards for his work, including the inaugural Prime Minister’s science prize, the Rutherford medal and the Dan Walls medal for physics. He currently a visiting professor at the Cavendish laboratory, Cambridge University.

He has been a prominent advocate of science education and research in New Zealand and for the compatibility of science and Christian faith.

Here’s a video to watch:

Here’s some reading: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10616394

Logic, Critical Thinking, Reasoning Errors, and other stuff Skeptics should know.

One of our members presented on the difference between deductive, inductive and abductive reasoning and logic; On some of the logical, reasoning, and argument fallacies we often make; A little bit on how philosophy ties in with science, Inference to the best explanation, Philosophy of Science, and the logical forms of scientific methodology; As well as some general critical thinking skills that we should apply not only to evaluating other’s arguments, but also our own.

We hope to have an video of this (and other) talks processed and up here soon. In the mean time:

EDIT: Here it is! 

Craig Cormick on Why clever people can believe in dumb things

Auckland University of Technology had Craig Cormick talk to the public on Tuesday 9th April on:

Why clever people can believe in dumb things and how the internet is making us stupider.

Abstract:    Addressing societal concerns about contentious new technologies such as GM foods and crops, or issues such as global climate change, has become increasingly difficult with a growing tendency for people to only seek out information that supports their existing values and beliefs rather than challenging them. This enables fringe beliefs to thrive – such as more than half of New Zealanders believing some people have psychic powers, a third believing the earth has been visited by UFOs from other planets, and a quarter believing astrology can predict people’s futures. In this entertaining talk, Dr Craig Cormick looks at the social psychology of how we form our attitudes and then reinforce them, and what role the internet has in attitude formation in the 21st Century.

About the speaker:
Craig Cormick is an award-winning Canberra author and science communicator. He has published over 100 short stories, including eight short story collections, as well as novel and non-fiction, with both independent and mainstream publishers.
Currently employed at the CSIRO, Craig is a regular commentator on public attitudes towards emerging technologies in the media and at conferences in Australia and internationally. He has travelled to all seven continents and his research has been published widely in peer-reviewed journals and conference papers. In 2005 he authored the reports What you really need to know about what the public really thinks about GM foods (2005) and Cloning Goes to the Movies (2006).

A transcript/article of a similar presentation can be found here: http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/features/a-scientific-view-non-science-beliefs/

VIDEO:  Dr Craig Cormick in conversation with Dr Di Bowman about the social values that govern much public perception of risk, and how they affect the decisions people make.

http://technyou.edu.au/2011/11/risk-science-unplugged-why-do-smart-people-believe-dumb-things/

Alice on Asexuality

ASEXUALITY: NOT JUST FOR AMOEBAS 

On Tuesday 19th April, one of our members, Alice, comes to talk to us about Asexuality. Alice is an asexual woman living with an asexual male partner. She has studied biopsychology and hormones. She will explain all the terminology associated with identifying as asexual, will be taking questions at the end of the talk, and making available printed resources leading to more information about asexuality.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asexuality

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/9651265/The-moment-I-realised-I-was-asexual.html

http://radicalprude.blogspot.co.nz/2012/03/link-between-feminism-and-asexuality.html

Up Coming Events – March 2013

Discussion Dinner: Meet and Greet

Tuesday 12 March, 5:30pm
School of Biology Building Tea Room
Paid members Free OR on the day $5.
 

A Talk on Charter Schools by Peter O’Connor

Tuesday 19th March, 6pm
Arts 1 Room 315
 
Speaker Profile:  Associate Professor O’Connor is an internationally recognised expert in applied theatre. His research has focused primarily on using applied theatre as a public education medium to address major social issues including public health, gender equity in schools and the development of inclusive, empathetic and critical school cultures. Recent applied theatre research includes national programmes on preventing family violence and child abuse and parenting programmes in Youth Justice Facilities. His work in Christchurch following the February earthquake has lead to UNESCO funded research and programme development. In 2011 he was named a New Zealander of the Year by North and South Magazine for this work. He is currently engaged in the ongoing debates about charter schools and the nature of quality public education. Peter was previously the National Education Manager for the Race Relations Office and the National Project manager for the Like Minds campaign with the Mental Health Foundation. His 2003 PhD on his work in forensic psychiatric units won the 2006 AATE Distinguished Dissertation Award in Washington DC.
 

Same Sex Marriage and Religious Exemptions: 

How New Zealand Law and International Human Rights Law Interact. 

Tuesday 26th March, 6pm 
Arts 1 Room 315
 
Abstract: This talk will give an overview of how international human rights law has developed since its origins in the aftermath of World War II, and how that body of law now interacts with New Zealand’s own law. Against that background, the current debate about same sex marriage, and the case for religion-based exemptions from solemnising same-sex marriages, will be explored.
 
Speaker Profile: Paul Rishworth joined The University of Auckland Faculty of Law in 1987. His research interests are in the field of human rights and comparative constitutional law, and South Pacific legal studies. His work on the New Zealand Bill of Rights has been widely cited by peers, practitioners and judges. He has worked over the years as a consultant and advisor for government agencies and groups, including the Human Rights Commission, in New Zealand and overseas, on issues ranging from restrictions on hate speech to the autonomy of religious organisations to hire and ordain leaders. Paul was the Faculty Dean and the Head of the Department of Law 2005-2010. He remains involved in the litigation of civil rights issues in the higher courts and in community organisations. Most recently he submitted in person the NZ Law Societies submission to the same same-sex Marriage Bill. Details of this submission and the NZ Law Societies position can be found here:
http://www.lawsociety.org.nz/home/for_the_public/for_the_media/latest_news/news/december-2012/complex-technical-issues-in-drafting-of-same-sex-marriage-bill
 

A Talk on His Book: “Seeking God In Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design”

Friday 29th March (Good Friday), 5:30pm
Biology Building BLT100
 
About the book: The doctrine of intelligent design is often the subject of acrimonious debate. Seeking God in Science cuts through the rhetoric that distorts the debates between religious and secular camps. Bradley Monton, a philosopher of science and an atheist, carefully considers the arguments for intelligent design and argues that intelligent design deserves serious consideration as a scientific theory. Monton also gives a lucid account of the debate surrounding the inclusion of intelligent design in public schools and presents reason why students’ science education could benefit from a careful consideration of the arguments for and against it.
 
A podcast of an earlier discussion with Bradley Monton is available here:
 

David Attenborough, Population and Resources

On the Tuesday 9th October we didn’t have a guest speaker planned, so we watched a David Attenborough documentary and then discussed issues of population growth and the earth’s resources.

 

Review of “Richard Easther on Fine Tuning”

Fine tuning the universe: the review

It is frequently suggested that the fundamental laws of physics must be “tuned” to ensure that the universe can permit the existence of life.  So we got in Prof. Richard Easther from the department of Physics to discuss some of these purported tunings in cosmology and fundamental physics, ask how they might be explained, and get his take on their implications.

Richard started off with what do we really mean by fine-tuned?  There are currently four forces in the standard model of Physics (electromagnetism, the strong and weak nuclear force and gravity) but could a universe exist with less or more forces? Are the values for these for forces fixed or could they vary?  It seems that although we do not know for certain we are getting close! So the question is why do we see a universe like this one? One that is apparently tuned for life.

From one perspective, the universe is not as tuned as we would be lead to believe.  Out of the very large volume that the universe contains, only the smallest fraction of it can support life as we know it.  If you were an entity creating a universe for life you would think you could tune it to be a little more life friendly.  Also the term, “life as we know it”, has an important distinction. If the universe did have a different set of rules which would not allow “life as we know it” to form, there is no guarantee that life would not pop up in another form, a form that could not survive in a universe with our current set of rules.  So the question becomes, why the universe has the observed set of rules rather than another.

Well it appears that in quantum physics the multiverse proposed by our favourite sci fi flicks may not be so far off from the truth.  String and M theory are models that are predictive in their power to explain the Phenomena that we see in the universe round us. It turns out that many cosmological theories are built on a set of equations that end up predicting multi universes as a natural and necessary by-product of their other predictions.  Each of these other universes has its own potentially unique set of rules, some maybe the same, some just slightly different rules to our universe.  To be clear, a new one is not created every time you make a choice, rather normal quantum fluctuations start the inflation of a new universe at another location.  If these happened close to our own universe just after our own big bang we may even get to see their impacts on the cosmic microwave background but we will have to stay tuned for that.

Just as we may have asked the question a 1000 years ago, “Why is our world so fine tuned for life?” and the answer being “it is not, it is just one of many possible planets” we are now getting to understand that the answer is the same for our universe. It is not.

By Josh