I guess nobody likes Bruce Willis

So…I went to that Bruce Willis movie I mentioned earlier. It was OK, a rather predictable cop thriller in which he does his usual schtick of getting beat up and bloodied and shot, while still defeating the bad guys at nearly every turn—but at the same time he doesn’t do the hokey super-cop stuff we saw in the Die Hard movies. At least I was pleasantly surprised, as I went in to it with low expectations.

I mentioned that we usually don’t have a problem with obnoxious people here, though, and that was true tonight, but for a different reason: I was the only person at the movie.

There I was, front row center, in a lovely old art deco movie theater, big screen, popcorn, the works…and it was all just for me. It was much nicer than you’ll get with your usual home theater set up.

Eight good essays on Mooney

There is a most excellent online seminar on Mooney’s Republican War on Science going on over at Crooked Timber. The usual gang is reviewing it, with the addition of the inestimable Tim Lambert and Steve Fuller. Wait a minute…Steve Fuller? That Steve Fuller? Steve Fuller. Steve Fuller!


I saw some glimmers of some interesting ideas at the start of Fuller’s ultimately long-winded essay, but they expired even before he started defending the “positive programme behind intelligent design theory” and collapsed into tired pro-creationism mode. When he called George Gilder and Bruce Chapman “technoscience sophisticates”, two people who know no biology and are proud of it, yet rail against basic evolutionary biology, I gave up. I don’t know what a contemptible pseudoscientific poseur like Fuller is doing in there, actually—maybe they should have invited Tom Bethell or some similar anti-science crank in, to give even better balance.

Oh, well. You can skip over that one. The rest of the online seminar is much more sensible.

The virtues of the small town movie theater

Kung Fu Monkey has an excellent rant about the theater experience, and how it is ruined by loudmouths and cell phones.

I just have to say that since I moved to Morris, I love going to the movies. I’ll even go to bad movies. And it’s all because the ambience has completely changed. Rogers recommends bringing back real ushers to silence the kibitzers and chatterers and inconsiderate babblers, but we’ve got something better: everyone in the theater knows everyone else. Nobody gets to make a public nuisance of themselves and then vanish into the anonymity of the crowd.

He’s exactly right. The community experience, the ability to just watch a movie and enjoy it, is the number one factor that has me going back over and over again, even when they’re showing garbage on the screen. I mean, seriously, I’m actually considering going to the theater this week to watch that lame Bruce Willis vehicle, 16 Blocks. I don’t even like Bruce Willis movies.

Francis Beckwith and the cold, cruel realities of tenure

Way back in the dim and distant past, like two years ago, there was a bit of a disturbance in the blogosphere, a minor contretemps after a certain Harvard law student, Lawrence VanDyke, published a “book note” in the Harvard Law Review. It was rank creationist nonsense, a work of pathetic scholarship, and it got publicly shredded by Brian Leiter, and I also got in the act. The book reviewed was an apologia for Intelligent Design by Francis Beckwith. In a later amusing twist, NRO published a defense of VanDyke and Beckwith by an anonymous “Texas free-lance writer”, who it was later discovered was Beckwith’s grad student, Hunter Baker. It’s all tortuous ancient history now, of course, and no one but those few of us involved in the dustup remember it.

What brings it all back is the news that Francis Beckwith has been denied tenure at Baylor. Hunter Baker hasn’t learned his lesson, and has written an overwrought defense, again in a pathetically semi-anonymous way, as “Graduate Student X”.

I have two things to say about it all.

One is to offer my personal sympathy to Francis Beckwith. Tenure is a brutal, evil machine that puts everyone through a hellish torture, and often spits out the deserving and rewards the undeserving. Do not ever judge someone by whether they have got tenure or not—it’s too arbitrary for that, and often represents a kind of insubstantial and subjective matching or mismatching between a person and an institution. So on a personal level, I wish Beckwith well and hope he and his family move on to a satisfying position elsewhere.

The second is that although it is nearly impossible to speculate on what’s going on in tenure committees—he could have been denied tenure on the whim of some old fart with a grudge—it’s hard to imagine that the politics of Intelligent Design did not play some small part in it. Beckwith tied his fortunes to those of the Discovery Institute and the ID movement, and at the very least we can say that that was not enough to salvage his tenure at Baylor. In fact, given that he has a respectable publication record and seems to be a personable fellow, it’s hard to avoid the speculation that they might have wanted to steer Baylor away from the disaster of Intelligent Design. A solid record of publishing large quantities of something that is being shown to be utter crap is not helpful to one’s tenure chances.

Is that a legitimate reason to deny someone tenure? Sure.

We’re all a little less frinky today

Oh, no—the Frinksters (<–dead link) have been kicked out of the scienceblogs stable. This is somewhat disturbing, since I think they were a real plus for the group—science is supposed to be fun and profane and weird, after all—but I am assured that they were not evicted for content, but solely because the authors insisted on maintaining anonymity, which meant that all liability devolved on Seed Media rather than the authors. That does mean we can still make dick jokes (good), but it also says that anonymity here is not supported (bad). I guess that’s the price we’re paying for free hosting.

I think we also now have a great reason to make lots of lawyer jokes.*

Let me just say that the old/new location for the FrinkTank is still in my blogroll and will be staying there, even if they are drunk with power now and are going to be proudly flaunting their dangerous iconoclastic status. And even if they’ve forgotten to re-enable commenting on their blog.

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The Dawkins/Dennett boogeyman

Why would a pro-science op-ed give credence to the words of William Dembski?

William Dembski (one of the leading lights of the US intelligent-design lobby) put it like this in an email to Dawkins: “I know that you personally don’t believe in God, but I want to thank you for being such a wonderful foil for theism and for intelligent design more generally. In fact, I regularly tell my colleagues that you and your work are one of God’s greatest gifts to the intelligent-design movement. So please, keep at it!”

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