Category Archives: News

Cosmologist Luke Barnes answers 11 objections to the fine-tuning argument

This is from the blog Common Sense Atheism.

Atheist Luke Muehlhauser interviews well-respect cosmologist Luke Barnes about the fine-tuning argument, and the naturalistic response to it.

Luke M. did a good job explaining the outline of the podcast.

Details:

In one of my funniest and most useful episodes yet, I interview astronomer Luke Barnes about the plausibility of 11 responses to the fine-tuning of the universe. Frankly, once you listen to this episode you will be better equipped to discuss fine-tuning than 90% of the people who discuss it on the internet. This episode will help clarify the thinking of anyone – including and perhaps especially professional philosophers – about the fine-tuning of the universe.

The 11 responses to fine-tuning we discuss are:

  1. “It’s just a coincidence.”
  2. “We’ve only observed one universe, and it’s got life. So as far as we know, the probability that a universe will support life is one out of one!”
  3. “However the universe was configured, evolution would have eventually found a way.”
  4. “There could be other forms of life.”
  5. “It’s impossible for life to observe a universe not fine-tuned for life.”
  6. “Maybe there are deeper laws; the universe must be this way, even though it looks like it could be other ways.”
  7. “Maybe there are bajillions of universes, and we happen to be in one of the few that supports life.”
  8. “Maybe a physics student in another universe created our universe in an attempt to design a universe that would evolve intelligent life.”
  9. “This universe with intelligent life is just as unlikely as any other universe, so what’s the big deal?”
  10. “The universe doesn’t look like it was designed for life, but rather for empty space or maybe black holes.”
  11. “Fine-tuning shows there must be an intelligent designer beyond physical reality that tuned the universe so it would produce intelligent life.”

Download CPBD episode 040 with Luke Barnes. Total time is 1:16:31.

There is a very good explanation of some of the cases of fine-tuning that I talk about most on this blog – the force of gravity, the strong force, etc. as well as many other examples. Dr. Barnes is an expert, but he is also very very easy to listen to even when talking about difficult issues. Luke M. is very likeable as the interviewer.

New study: left-wing extremism linked to psychopathy and narcissism

There’s an old saying that if you’re not a leftist before the age of 30 then you have no heart, and if you’re not a conservative after the age of 30 then you have no brain. But are leftists really big-hearted? Does the worldview of leftism really make it rational for the leftist to sacrifice their own interests in order to produce good results for other people? Or is there something else going on?

A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Current Psychology was reported in the New York Post:

Left-wing extremism is linked to toxic, psychopathic tendencies and narcissism, according to a new study published to the peer-reviewed journal Current Psychology.

“Based on existing research, we expected individuals with higher levels of left-wing authoritarianism to also report higher levels of narcissism,” the authors wrote.

As result of the new data, study authors Ann Krispenz and Alex Bertrams have coined a new term for such psychological behavior: the “dark-ego-vehicle principle.”

“According to this principle, individuals with dark personalities — such as high narcissistic and psychopathic traits — are attracted to certain forms of political and social activism which they can use as a vehicle to satisfy their own ego-focused needs instead of actually aiming at social justice and equality,” they told PsyPost.

Advocating for left-wing activism isn’t being done to get results – it’s just being done for personal gain:

“In particular, certain forms of activism might provide them with opportunities for positive self-presentation and displays of moral superiority, to gain social status, to dominate others, and to engage in social conflicts and aggression to satisfy their need for thrill seeking.”

[…]Beyond using any means necessary, people of privileged backgrounds who are aligned with LWA often use their narcissism to make activism solely about themselves instead of achieving social equality for struggling groups.

[…]“As grandiose narcissists typically desire fame, distinction, elevated social status and high social importance, they can be assumed to strive for influential positions that involve social visibility and outreach as well as access to financial and other resources.”

Leftists aren’t trying to comply with an objective standard of morality that exists independent of their own desires. For leftists, morality is just a set of social conventions. They shout their allegiance to social conventions, and advocate for trendy causes with Instagram posts, Facebook shares, and bumper stickers. That’s why the BLM leaders only gave 33% of the donations they collected to charities to advance BLM goals. The rest they kept in order to buy things like million-dollar mansions and other luxuries. They say one thing to make people like them, then they do something else. And their actions are for their benefit, not any victim group. This is the morality of atheism. Do what’s best for you, but paint a picture of yourself as virtuous so people think you’re not self-centered.

One issue where the left is hypocritical is on gun ownership vs gun banning. The same leftists who advocate for gun bans often have private security or bodyguards. They want to tell you how they oppose gun violence, but they want armed people to protect them. Their families need to be protected by guns, just not your family.

Leftists are also hypocritical about race. If you’re a black person and you blame your problems on white people, they love you. But if you’re a black person, and you think that people succeed or fail based on hard work and good decisions, then they hate you. There is no racial hatred like the racial hatred that a white leftist has against black conservatives.

Remember when Democrats were all rushing around warning people to wear masks and stay inside? But they we found out that all the biggest mouths on the left were going to parties and baseball games and hair salons in private, breaking their own rules. The same things happens on climate change. The people who talk the loudest about it are the same ones flying around on private jets.

Democrat politicians are always talking about making the rich “pay their fair share”, but if you look at their rates of charitable giving, it’s lower than the average American. Sometimes much lower. Again, the talk says one thing, but the actions say something else. Because their goal is to be evil, but paint a picture of themselves as good.

I think it’s important for people to understand that loud advocacy for left-wing policies can often be a sign of mental illness. People who want to produce good results are not typically in front of cameras shouting out their virtue. But you’ll have to look far and wide to find a leftist who achieves a good result for someone else at their own expense.

Memorial Day story: little destroyers fought like battleships in the Battle off Samar

I thought about what story from military history to share with you all for Memorial Day. This time, I decided on the story of Lieutenant Commander Robert W. Copeland and his ship the Samuel B. Roberts. The story takes place during World War 2, in the Pacific Theater, as the American fleet is battling with the Japanese to re-take the Philippine Islands.

I read about this story in “World War II at Sea: A Global History” by  Craig L. Symonds and in “The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors” by James D. Hornfischer.

Before we get started, let’s learn about some ship classes and weapon capabilities.

Japanese Yamato-class battleship:

  • displacement: 72,809 tons
  • speed: 27 knots
  • 9 x 18.1″ guns
  • 12 x 6.1″ guns
  • 12 x 5″ guns

Japanese Takao-class heavy cruiser:

  • displacement: 15,781 tons
  • speed: 35.5 knots
  • 10 x 8″ guns
  • 4 x 5″ guns

American Fletcher-class destroyer:

  • displacement: 2,500 tons
  • speed: 36.5 knots
  • 5 x 5″ guns

American John C. Butler-class destroyer escort:

  • displacement: 1,370 tons
  • speed: 28.7 knots
  • 2 x 5″ guns

So, this story is from October 25th, 1944. It takes place east of the Philippine islands. The American force “Taffy 3” consists of 6 escort carriers, 3 destroyers, 4 destroyer escorts. An escort carrier is a light aircraft carrier. The Japanese force has 4 battleships, including the Yamato (!), 6 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers, and 11 destroyers. The Yamato is the largest and most powerful battleship ever built. The Americans are severely outnumbered and outgunned.

Normally, American escort carriers would be escorted by much larger ships, because they are so valuable. Carrier aircraft have much longer range and striking power than a battleship. But the Japanese had made a plan to lure Admiral William “Bull” Halsey away from the escort carriers and the invasion force, which he was supposed to be protecting. They used some aircraft carriers as bait, and Halsey chased after them with his battleships, cruisers and destroyers. The Japanese aircraft carriers had few aircraft and air crews, and were thus a weak threat. Halsey also declined to communicate his decision to leave the escort carriers to his superiors. He also refused to respond to messages from Fleet Admiral Nimitz. By the time Halsey returned to his duty, he arrived too late to have any impact on the Battle off Samar.

But what about that force of destroyers and destroyer escorts that stayed with the escort carriers?

Here is an article from Warfare History Network that tells the story:

At exactly 6:45 on the morning of October 25, 1944, Rear Admiral Clifton A.F. Sprague received a message from one of his pilots on antisubmarine patrol. The admiral recalled that the message went something like this: “Enemy surface force of 4 battleships, 7 cruisers, and 11 destroyers sighted 20 miles northwest of your task group and closing in on you at 30 knots.”

[…]At 6:58, the ships opened fire. Less than a minute later, colored splashes from the Japanese shells landed astern of Taffy 3.

Two more things I need to explain. First, a “rain squall” is the equivalent of a foxhole in naval warfare. Ships inside the rain squall are invisible to ships outside the rain squall. Second, aircraft carriers must be sailing against the wind in order to launch aircraft.

More:

Sprague was fully aware of his predicament and did not think that his force of “baby flattops” and their escorts would last 15 minutes against the oncoming battleships and cruisers. As soon as the approaching task force was confirmed as Japanese, he “took several defensive actions in quick succession.” He ordered a change in course from north to due east, which pointed Taffy 3 “at full speed toward a friendly rain squall nearby.” The new course also turned his carriers into the wind, and at 6:56 Sprague ordered all carriers to begin launching aircraft for torpedo and bombing attacks against Kurita’s force. A minute later, he ordered the carriers and their escorts to make as much smoke as possible to screen Taffy 3 from the Japanese gunners. A smokescreen offered scant protection against large-caliber enemy shells, but it was better than nothing.

This part is interesting. I have to highlight the bravery of the torpedo, bomber and fighter pilots:

After they dropped their bombs, the pilots made dry runs on the enemy ships to distract the Japanese gunners. The commander of Gambier Bay’s air group flew his Avenger through enemy flak for two hours after he dropped his bombs. The pilots of the Wildcat fighters were sent in to strafe “with the hope that their strafing would kill personnel on the Japanese warships, silence automatic weapons, and, most important, draw attention from the struggling escort carriers.” When their ammunition ran out, the fighter pilots also resorted to dry runs to harass the enemy. One pilot made 20 strafing runs, 10 of them without ammunition.

To me that is astonishing. I would only order my strike aircraft to strafe after dropping their ordnance if the enemy ship was on fire, moving slowly, and far away from her allies.

But it worked:

“The bombers and torpedo planes were very aggressive and skilful and the coordination was impressive,” a Japanese officer told his American interpreter after the war, “even in comparison with the many experiences of American attacks we had already had, this was the most skilful work of your planes.”

Next, the American destroyers – Hoel, Heermann and Johnston  – attacked:

In addition to his carrier’s air groups, Sprague also sent his destroyers and destroyer escorts against Kurita’s force. The normal job of these screening warships was to protect the escort carriers from submarines, but now they would be performing a completely different task.

The destroyers did a great job of disrupting the advance of the much stronger Japanese ships with gunfire and torpedoes. The Japanese ships had to dodge the torpedoes, delaying their pursuit of the valuable escort carriers:

American torpedoes were not fast and were easily avoided. However, the evasive action not only slowed the advance of the Japanese warships but also created confusion. Admiral Kurita himself said, “Major units [warships] were separating all the time because of the destroyer torpedo attacks.” He realized that he was losing more tactical control every time his ships had to turn to avoid Taffy 3’s torpedoes.

[…]Yamato turned away to evade the torpedoes, heading north and keeping on that course for about 10 minutes. This effectively took Yamato out of the fight.

You can read all the details in the article I’m quoting from, but I want to focus on the destroyer escorts – Dennis, John C. Butler, Raymond, Samuel B. Roberts.

More:

Kurita was becoming convinced that he was facing a major American task force, not just a few escort carriers and destroyers. However, the battle was far from over. At about the same time that Hoel was firing her torpedoes at Haguro, Sprague ordered his destroyer escorts to begin their runs at Kurita’s warships: “Little Wolves form up for a second attack,” he barked. “Wolves” was code for the destroyers, while the radio call sign for the destroyer escorts was “Little Wolves.” So far, the destroyer escorts had been assigned almost exclusively to antisubmarine patrols. Torpedo attacks against cruisers and battleships were something new to Taffy 3’s Little Wolves.

They threw themselves into the task. Raymond took on Haguro, the leading Japanese cruiser. Just before 8 am, she launched three torpedoes at a range of about 6,000 yards. Haguro turned to avoid them while Raymond changed course and got away from the scene as quickly as possible.

Dennis followed the same course of action. She fired her torpedoes at the nearest Japanese cruiser, either Chokai or Tone, and turned sharply to the southwest. At about 8:10, Dennis opened fire with her after 5-inch battery on a cruiser that was already under air attack.

Robert Copeland told the crew of the Samuel B. Roberts:

We’re making a torpedo run. The outcome is doubtful, but we will do our duty.

They set off on their torpedo run, charging the Takeo-class heavy cruiser Chokai. The Roberts launched 3 torpedoes, and one scored a direct hit on the Chokai’s stern, contributing to damage that would eventually sink her. The little destroyer got so close to the Chokai that her big 8 inch guns could not lower far enough to hit the Roberts.

On her way back to the escort carriers, the Roberts encountered the Chikuma, a Tone-class heavy cruiser. The Roberts engaged in a running gun battle with the heavy cruiser, firing off over 600 5 inch shells at the much larger ship. She destroyed one of the Chikuma’s gun turrets and set fires all over the superstructure of the heavy cruiser. Japanese heavy cruisers and battleships fired at the Roberts. The Kongo, a Kongo-class battleship, hit the Roberts several times below the water line. Copeland gave the order to abandon ship, and the Roberts sunk a bit later, still under fire from larger Japanese ships. 90 of her crew perished, and 120 escaped on life rafts.

Copeland had broadcast this message to his crew before the battle:

This will be a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected. We will do what damage we can.

And here is a short 12-minute animation that shows what happened in the battle:

In Fredericksburg, TX, at the National Museum of the Pacific War, there is a wonderful movie that shows the whole battle. I’ve been there.

Since this is Memorial Day, I want to highlight the American casualties of the Battle off Samar:

  • 2 escort carriers sunk
  • 2 destroyers sunk
  • 1 destroyer escort sunk
  • 23 aircraft lost
  • 4 escort carriers damaged
  • 1 destroyer damaged
  • 2 destroyer escorts damaged
  • 1,161 killed and missing
  • 913 wounded

The casualty list would have been a lot worse, if not for the bravery of the pilots, and the crews of the destroyers and destroyer escorts who charged much larger ships to protect the valuable escort carriers.