|Tuesday, February 12, 2002
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHARLES DARWIN
Creationism is dead, but don't expect that to shut it up.
Creationism, creation 'science,' and intelligent design theory are all attempts by Biblical literalists to undermine the theory of evolution. The motivations behind such attempts haven't changed since the days of the Scopes trial: the idea that Man arrived on this planet by accident or natural processes is incompatible with certain traditional religious views about Man's origins and purpose. The attacks, whether in Tennessee or Kansas or, most recently, Ohio, usually focus on the public schools and science classes.
The attacks have gotten more sophisticated in recent years, as it became clear that the religious motivation behind them had to be masked. Intelligent Design theory actually conceded much of the theory of evolution in an attempt to masquerade as science, and focused on certain tricky questions that still remained unanswered in evolutionary theory, especially the question of how evolution can explain the big jumps that produce new species.
That puzzle has now been solved, just in time for Charles Darwin's birthday, and its solution cuts the legs out from under intelligent design theory, giving impressive new support to the theory of evolution, which was already one of the most solidly established theories in science.
Where will the creationists go now? If intelligent design theorists were really engaged in science rather that disguised religion, they'd welcome the new results, but that won't happen. No they'll just regroup and come back under a new banner. They won't go away, because they have a serious problem: their fundamental beliefs are in conflict with the way the world really is. And that's a bad position to be in because, powerful as beliefs can be, reality always wins in the end.
Here's to the shy, gentle, and entirely non-confrontational scientist who changed the world. Happy birthday, Charles Darwin.
|Sunday, February 10, 2002
AMERICA: BORN TO RAISE HELL"God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion.... [W]hat country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.... What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." -Thomas Jefferson, 1787.
It's good to remind oneself in this time of mandatory patriotism that the people who founded the United States of America had recently taken up arms to overthrow a government, and felt that all citizens should be prepared to overthrow the government they were setting up, if necessary.
|Saturday, February 9, 2002
A REPLACEMENT FOR WOMEN
"It's strange to reflect that electronic digital computers were invented to replace women. [Rows of WACs, or in Britain WRENs, each punching keys on a desk calculator, each computing her tiny task of some large computing problem.] Stranger still to realize that, for some (male) programmers, the replacement seems to have succeeded beyond expectations. If this paragraph has nothing to do with you, please take no offense. But if you recognize yourself in this picture, take a break. Log off. Shut down, Talk to people."-from "Swaine's Flames" in Dr. Dobb's Journal, January 1989.
|Friday, February 8, 2002
ABOUT MIKE SWAINE
This is Mike Swaine's Weblog. Who dat? Glad you asked.
Short answer, relatively speaking:
Mike Swaine has been the editor-at-large for Dr. Dobb's Journal for the past 15 years; has been a writer for various technical magazines for 20 years, currently writing columns for WebReview, TecChannel, and WebEgg; is a contributor to Encyclopedia Britannica; is the co-author of Fire in the Valley: the making of the personal computer; and has written other computer books. He was a senior editor at InfoWorld before the dawn of time and has served as Dr. Dobb's Journal's editor-in-chief.
Long answer, for those who don't know when they've had enough:
APPRENTICE PROPELLORHEAD. Mike is perhaps best known for his long-standing relationship with Dr. Dobb's Journal, the leading magazine for computer programmers, where he was editor-in-chief from 1984-1987, and for which he has been editor-at-large ever since. As editor-at-large, he writes the monthly Programming Paradigms and Swaine's Flames columns.
MACMAN. None but the greatly insane will remember The Mac II Report, written by Mike and Thom Hogan back when the II was new, but some loyal Macophiles may recall one or more of Mike's four columns in the late, lamented MacUser magazine (now merged into MacWorld) over a stretch of about ten years: Card Tricks (which ran during the early days of HyperCard enthusiasm and grew into a book and a newsletter), Beating the System (later taken over by Bob LeVitus), an eponymous industry-watch column, and Net Traveler. Mike's Fifth Column on all things Macintoshish runs at DDJ.com.
LAST SEEN SURFING. Net Traveler was the first of Mike's Internet-related columns. Besides helping launch WebTechniques magazine, for which Mike writes erratically, in mid-1998 he added a weekly column for WebTechniques' online sister publication, WebReview called Swaine's Frames. He's also written for other Web-related dead-tree publications and writes an Italian online Q&A column called Villa Swaine for WebEgg, and is a frequent contributor to the German technology e-magazine TecChannel.
FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT. Italian, German: if you are fluent in these languages, you can read columns by Mike in Italian at the WebEgg Web site or in German at TecChannel. (The WebEgg site also posts Mike's words in their native English.)
TECH NEWS HOUND. The news pages here at Swaine's World are just the latest outlet for Mike's long-standing interest in tracking high tech developments. He was one of a small group of journalists who, back in 1981, led InfoWorld to become the leading (well, at the time the only) newsweekly for the personal computer industry.
VIRTUAL FRIEND. While at InfoWorld, Mike created the puzzle detective Mr. Usasi, who occupied the back page of the weekly for a couple of years. The strain of producing a puzzle in the form of a short story every week warped Mike permanently, as his subsequent work makes all too obvious. Along the way, he and Thom Hogan created the well-meaning Chip Allgood, too, and more recently Mike's Cousin Corbett, Flip Nudge, and several journalists who hang out at Foo Bar make frequent appearances in Swaine's Flames. And then there's Max Netroom, the most virtual of them all, who appears at WebEgg.
FUTURE HISTORIAN. The history of the personal computer revolution has been an interest of Mike's since his first article for InfoWorld back in 1981. With Paul Freiberger, he wrote Fire in the Valley, the story of the making of the personal computer. Freiberger and Swaine also wrote the entry on computer history in the latest edition of Encyclopedia Britannica. Fire in the Valley is the primary source for a TV movie, Pirates of Silicon Valley, starring Noah Wyle and Anthony Michael Hall, that first aired on TNT on May 23, 1999. The long-awaited (by Mike and Paul, anyway) second edition of Fire in the Valley came out in 2000, from McGraw-Hill, in paperback and hardback forms. See the FireInTheValley Web site to buy it (yes!) or read about it.
TECH CRED. Mike has a master's degree in computer science from Indiana University and has taught computer programming. His real tech credentials, though, are that he programmed CP/M systems in 1980, repaired multiuser microcomputer systems in 1979, wrote sparse matrix routines for his TRS-80 Model 1 in 1978, and was scratching out a living as a freelance programmer before that.
IRL. In February, 1999, Mike moved to a 6-1/2 acre farm (1/2 acre more than Steve Jobs's estate) plus gourmet restaurant just outside Grants Pass, Oregon, with his partner Nancy and their dog Zelda. No, the move has nothing to do with Y2K. And the California connection has not been severed; Mike still gets into Silicon Valley about as often as when he was living in the hills above Santa Cruz.
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