Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Jason Pratt on Pianka


this may be worth posting more generally than in a comment thread. (But
you think I should post it there instead, let me know.)


Bringing data up to date while prepping for a more general post on the
topic later (to be emailed to Victor).

Jim, I agree: _so far_ I see no specific evidence that Pianka is an
advocate of intentionally doing this. As I told Steven, I'm actually
quite glad about that.

Yes, the Seguin transcript (of the 2nd speech on March 31st) and Mims'
report (of the 1st speech in early March) are off on some points (as I
noted, though not in detail). This could be explained in a number of
different ways, many of them more-or-less in Pianka's favor.

(I will note that until recently I haven't read any other articles by
the Seguin Gazette on the controversy, only the transcript link provided by
Steven, for which again I thank him. As those articles are about
reporting opinions pro and con on the lectures, I consider them less important;
I'drather work on the primary data, insofar as it can be had.)

I agree, having an actual recording (and transcript) of Pianka's speech
early in March would be helpful. Since we don't have it, though, we're
kind of vaporing in trying to discuss it; which is one reason why I
suggested doing a principle-comparison between Pianka (using the late-March
transcript) and Carlson instead.

The transcript available on Pearcey's website is, as Nick Matzke
himself points out, "partial". In point of fact, it matches up fairly well to
the final five minutes or so of the fuller transcript from March
31st--which, in the content of its speech, seems to incorporate some bits from the
Q&A session earlier in the month. If the structure of the two speeches are
parallel (and I have no reason yet to doubt they wouldn't be); then the
parts that people are mainly complaining about (or hailing as radical),
in misunderstanding or otherwise, would have occurred _before_ this
section--as the transcribed lead-in itself indicates.

It is also interesting, that the tape recording (per the transcript)
kicks in precisely _after_ the portions that Mims was (mostly) complaining
about (using the 2nd transcript as a basis comparison.) I'm curious as to how
NP got hold of the transcript and/or the audio tape from which the
transcript comes. Possibly someone knows this already, but I haven't found it yet.
Info would be welcome. Mims says, in his letter to the TAoS, early April,
that he has access to the tape.

BDK says he has read transcript from the _videos_ of both talks; and
claims video was in fact taken of the first talk (which he's very glad
of)--though the link he sent doesn't contain this or even mention it (neither does the Pearcey article Matzke links to). Perhaps this information is in the
comments below Matzke's blog entry, and I missed it? (Entirely
possible, but some clarification would be appreciated if so.)

Something else I would expect to be useful, would be Mims' response to
reading the St. Edwards transcript. (Anyone have info on this?)

The link Jim posted to Panda's Thumb (for the statement by the TAoS)
still doesn't work, btw, as of today (April 18th, about 11 CST). Not sure
that's important, but a new link would be appreciated. (Possibly Panda's Thumb
removed it because it violated copyright law.)

Also, the Seguine Gazette's transcript of the second lecture now
appears to be completely gone (as of April 18th): a search on their site turned up
three articles on the dispute, but _not_ the transcript itself, nor any
explanation for its disappearance. (I suspect legal issues; but it
while it would be nice to have that confirmed, there would be equally legal reasons
why the paper couldn't say so officially, since that would be
considered an admission of infringement in court.)

Fortunately, Google has kept a snapshot of it; I would post the link,
but the address is terribly long. I've now saved it, though, in case it
disappears, too. (Again, possibly for legal reasons, since transcripts
nominally would be at least co-property of the various universities.)

If another site is now hosting the second transcript, such as St.
Edwards, a link would be appreciated so that others can still have access to it.
Otherwise, I'll try copy-pasting the Google archive link to an html
artifact here (though I'm not very good at that, and the size of the
address is kind of daunting me {s}); or I'll send Victor a text of the
transcript for him to post up (at least until lawyers warn him of
copyright infringement. {g})

Finally, the link found and posted by Jim to a statement from Pianka on
the topic is much appreciated. (I suppose it's dated after all this
started?--no way to tell on the page itself, or its root page,

At least three topics for serious discussion occur to me; at least two
of which I will try to cover in a longer forthcoming letter.

a.) what, in the primary data we have at hand (such as it is), can we
find that may shed light (being as charitable as possible to Mims as well as
to Pianka) on why Mims went as ballistic as he has about this (followed by
Carlson of all people)?

b.) what are the points of similarity and disjunction between Pianka
(especially with an eye to the lecture series, though not forgetting
the qualifying entry on Pianka's website which Jim provided for us) and
Carlson (the hardline atheistic evolutionist who is criticising Pianka,
specifically on evolutionary and anti-theistic grounds)?

c.) the controversy leads into the question of what it means to be better
than a bacterium, and in what ways. For example, it appears to me that
one point of similarity shared by Pianka (in both transcripts, as well as
his qualifying post) and Carlson; is that _both_ of them make appeals to
humans which presuppose some kind of transcendent superiority (not merely
effectual) for humans, while also strenuously denying any such thing
can be true about humans compared to any other naturally produced species. (Which of course would include, as Pianka did put it, bacteria.) A discussion of this, though it may be done somewhat separate from the Pianka
situation, would seem to be worth having.



Lippard said...

The Texas Academy of Science statement on Pianka at the Panda's Thumb is still there. I'm not sure what was wrong with the link I previously posted.

Jason Pratt said...

Thanks, Jim. No idea either, but I had tried it several times (including several times on the day that I wrote that letter). Temporary server problems on the other end, perhaps. Glad to have a working link!

Been busy at (and am now kind of pooped from) working up commentary on the SecWeb debate between Richard and Tom. (Short version: _extremely_ weak for both sides--enough so that I don't give much of a hoot about watching either of them flopping around during their rebuttal stages. Glad _I'm_ not an official judge--poor Vic has to plod through all that and try to render some kind of point score... pray for him... {g}) Will probably take a few days to recuperate, and then see what can be feasibly drawn out of the Pianka situation.