Monday, December 17, 2007

Sir Arthur at 90

I'm occasionally asked why I write science fiction.

The answer is, because of this man:

Happy birthday Sir Arthur!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Covering all bases: trying out Linux - part 1

How can I possibly hold my head up as a certified computer nerd without knowledge of the third most popular computer operating system (and incidentally the one that runs most of the internet)?

I've had goes with Linux before, but each time it was a half-hearted affair, and by no means entirely successful. Nevertheless, I decided it was time to give Linux a fair trial, and by 'fair' I'm referring to the the fact that my previous attempts were on redundant hardware that wasn't up to the job.

In recent years the computer marketplace has changed. It's now possible to buy a basic PC, without monitor or OS, for under £250. But 'basic' is a relative term. This £250 PC has a 64-bit dual-core processor, 2 GB of system RAM and a 250 GB serial ATA hard disk - computing power that would have cost between five and ten times as much a mere five years ago.

So, I bought one. I already had a suitable monitor (a 19" widescreen LCD), and I'd downloaded the operating system in readiness for the 'experiment'.

And the OS? The word is, apparently, 'Ubuntu'. You can go to the website and download a CD image file, which you then use to make a boot CD. There are comprehensive instructions on the site if you don't know how to do this - it's not difficult (and if you use a Mac it is ridiculously easy). You can then use the CD to try out Ubuntu Linux on any PC (or even an Intel Mac, apparently) without messing with your hard drive. Then, if you wish, you can install it. That's when the fun starts.

The process worked well enough. I had to be careful adjusting the display settings (several of my attempts resulted in the disappearance of the mouse cursor), but I found that ignoring the 'test' mode and rebooting worked fine. Next on the list was connecting to the internet. Firefox is pre-installed, but because of the way my home network is set up I had to adjust the network settings to a static IP address and enter DNS addresses to make it work.

I gave up on the printer. I've no doubt that connecting a USB or parallel printer would be a doddle, but I have a print-server on my network that was extremely difficult to set up for my Macs, so I wasn't surprised to find the Linux set-up a little opaque. That's something I'll need to come back to.

Ubuntu Linux also comes with OpenOffice 2.3 pre-installed, though I did notice that it wouldn't read some of my ancient StarWriter documents, despite the fact that my PC version of OpenOffice (version 2.0) has no trouble with them. It's probably a simple matter of installing the correct filters.

One important thing I discovered, pretty much by chance, is that Ubuntu Linux does not, by default, check for updates. There are preferences you have to change to allow it to update itself - once I did this, it downloaded and installed about 40 updates.

One last gem I'll mention in this initial part of the saga - I needed to copy a DVD (home produced - not copy-protected). I put the disc in the drive, and found that if I right-clicked on the desktop icon there was an option to copy the disc. This was a breeze - it made an image, then prompted for a blank disc, and burnt the copy. This will definitely be my preferred method for making DVD copies in the future. No third-party software required - not even any need to launch another app.

So far, I'm impressed.

Friday, September 28, 2007

What is it with spammers?

Am I missing something here?

I get lots of spam. Most of it is efficiently filtered out by Gmail, but nonetheless I do check it regularly, just in case some false positives get caught.

But I'm at a loss to understand what the spammers are hoping to achieve. They appear to go to great lengths to defeat my spam filters. Why? Do they think I'll reward their ingenuity by buying stuff I don't need? Don't they realise why I have spam filters? Because I don't want their stuff!

Here's my advice. I offer it free, gratis, and for nothing.

Make your subject header actually relevant to the content of your email. Don't use obfuscation in the body of the email (such as peculiar graphics, or unconventional spelling). Use an honest email address.

This way I can easily trash your email if it's not relevant to me, my wants or needs. But it also makes it easy for me to identify if I may actually desire to do business with you - because your email will not have been consigned to my junk folder.

You never know - you might actually get more business this way.

Monday, August 13, 2007

My latest appearance...

'Appearance' in the title of this post is metaphorical - you can't see me, but you can hear me reading Stephen Gaskell's story "Everyone Carries a Shadow" in the 50th episode of Pseudopod, the weekly horror podcast.

I enjoy reading for other people, especially short stories, but I appreciate that my voice is only appropriate for some. This is my third reading for Pseudopod, and I'll be interested in the reaction this story garners. My previous two readings were Michael Stone's "Sacred Skin" and Eugie Foster's "Oranges, Lemons and Thou Beside Me" - both of which were extremely creepy (the Foster was also highly disturbing).

I've also read in the past for Pseudopod's elder sibling Escape Pod, my first being Scott Janssens' flash story "Paradox", and subsequently a two-hander with Tee Morris, "Are You Ready For the End of the World?" by Danny Adams. But the story I had most fun with was Steve Eley's "The Malcontent" which he asked me to read for Escape Pod's 50th episode.

(I like stories that operate on more than one level, and "The Malcontent" was one of those - lots of fun, but with deeper meaning evident as the story progressed.)

I've also read for The Time Traveller Show, and for its offshoot Wonder Audio, whose stories are now available for purchase from Audible and iTunes.

And in a fit of enthusiasm I read three chapters of Jules Verne's A Journey to the Interior of the Earth and one chapter of Bram Stoker's Dracula, both for LibriVox.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Fizzle? It didn't!

Last Saturday evening BBC1 aired the finale of Jekyll, and what was briefly hinted at in the penultimate of six instalments came to its complex conclusion. This clever, sophisticated and funny series must be a landmark for British speculative TV drama. Not since Channel Four's Ultraviolet, written by Joe Ahearne and broadcast in 1998 has the traditional horror genre been given serious science-fictional treatment on British TV.

Quite what happens next I've no idea. We have the Jackman twins - that could be another story, but it looks like this one is over.

Or is it?

(Previous witterings here and here.)

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Wikipedia Story

Clive Anderson investigated Wikipedia earlier this week on BBC Radio 4: The Wikipedia Story

He dealt with the usual criticisms ("it can't be relied on; how do we know the expertise of those who edit pages; it's easily vandalised, etc") with the typically incisive mind of a lawyer, and at the same time engendered enthusiasm for what is undoubtedly a laudable project. He visited the UK branch of Britannica to get a view from the establishment side of the encyclopaedia business, and he even elicited a sound-bite or two from renowned internet doomsayer Andrew Keen, author of The Cult of the Amateur and whose broadcast comments reeked of sour grapes.

The radio programme is available as an audio stream here (I don't know for how long - but it will shortly be released as a podcast*):

Download RealPlayer here

Anderson and his interviewees emphasised the essential point about Wikipedia and Web 2.0 - that there is no way this is going to be like a traditional encyclopaedia, nor should it be. We now live in a different information age. By all means trot down to your local library and heft a massive tome from the shelf in order to find out what you want to know. Meanwhile those of us with more pressing knowledge-needs can log on, check out, cross reference and be on to the next item before the traditional researchers have located their bicycle clips.

*UPDATE: The stream and podcast are no longer available, but you can download the mp3 from RapidShare here:

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Saturday evenings are still fun

Doctor Who has finished on BBC 1 for the time being (until the Christmas Special with Kylie Minogue), so Saturday evenings are now focussed on James Nesbitt's bravura performance in Jekyll. This series, now up to episode 4, has edged further from the surreal melodramatics of the opening episodes into out-and-out science fiction. And pretty good sci fi it's turning out to be, if you don't mind your suspension of disbelief being stretched spider-web thin.

Nesbitt, Gina Bellman and Denis Lawson are a joy to watch, as if they're fully aware this isn't meant to be classical drama and have decided to run with its absurdities for all they're worth. Some great lines too: "You have my husband in a box!" Stating the obvious, but said out loud it does emphasise the craziness of the whole premise.

This week we were treated to some sizeable chunks of flashback, when we saw how Dr Jackman first became aware of his peculiar disorder, at about the same time he first met his wife-to-be. It's greatly to writer Steven Moffat's credit that these scenes were convincing and sympathetic, despite being in a different style from the rest of the production so far.

Jekyll is huge fun, and not to be missed.

Monday, July 09, 2007

About time! Verbose Plitone continues at last

It's been a long wait, but fans of the 'verbose' version of my podcast novel The Plitone Revisionist may be shocked to discover another episode in the feed. The 'lean-and-clean'* version at has been complete (all 23 episodes) for a few weeks now, but I promised to catch up the chatty version eventually, so there it goes.

(*You might need to click on 'Home' to see the notes for the latest episode, until I get the page sorted out properly.)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Spectacular effects, but....

Sit back and enjoy this compilation of effects shots from Battlestar Galactica (turn up your speakers):

(via Slice of SciFi)

It's all very impressive, but these spectacular effects are not why I watch BSG, which is primarily a show about personal relationships in a science-fictional setting.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Significant new media ... or pointless bloggery?

Andrew Keen has published (using 'old media') a book about the evils of new media: The Cult of the Amateur. Naturally he wants to promote it on the Today Programme:

Click here for streaming audio
(the relevant piece is at 21'09" into this 26'22" clip)*

Download RealPlayer here

Sorry, Mr Keen, the new media is here to stay. It has its faults, just like old media, but your bleating about 'authority' and 'editors' won't make it go away. It's the lack of the old kind of regulation that makes the new media so attractive to its users.

(More later, when I've had time to collate my thoughts on this important subject.)

Now that I've listened to the clip again, and had time to consider, here's my take (note that I've not read Mr Keen's book):

Historically, people have been less likely to question the authority of the old media than they are to question the authority of the new media. Now, they are savvy enough to know that just because something is on a web page doesn't necessarily mean it's true.

When people read stuff on blogs, or MySpace, or wherever, they know it has no built-in authority and will interpret what they read accordingly. Youngsters growing up with the new media are fully aware that they are free to create stuff themselves, and they are also aware of how much authority they themselves have in doing so (that is, none at all) so they are naturally inclined to question what they read.

As a result of this default mode of questioning, they're likely to apply the same critical thinking to all media, new and old -- which can only be a good thing.

If you ask people whether they believe everything they read in a traditionally printed newspaper, they'll likely say, "No, of course not." But until recently if you questioned what someone was telling you about a reported event, they're likely to have told you, "It's true, I read it in the Daily Such-&-Such."

Wikipedia is often brought up as an example of how the internet shouldn't be trusted, but Wikipedia's self-correcting mechanism ensures that its information is mostly reliable. Not completely, but mostly reliable. Just like Britannica, as a December 2005 report has shown.

One of Andrew Keen's objections to the new media is that it has 'zero value'. By which I suspect he means it's free, and therefore worthless. Aside from any frustrations he might have with being unable to monetize his own internet-based efforts, this is a particularly blinkered view. Something is only worth what you pay for it? Hard cash or you're not interested? Tell that to Google. Tell that to Scott Sigler.

Web 2.0 is not, as Brian Appleyard incorrectly states in this clip, to do with interactivity -- we had that to some degree in Web 1.0 -- it's mainly to do with the separation of form from content, which is what makes the creation of web-content so easy for the non-technical user. Web 2.0 is facilitating a medium that allows people to make themselves heard -- to communicate, to create, to think. Long may it continue.

*UPDATE: If the streaming audio is unavailable, download the mp3 of the clip from RapidShare here:

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Only two episodes in and we're already way over the top

James Nesbitt is having great fun on BBC 1 at 9 pm Saturdays, in a completely over-the-top performance as Dr. Jackman -- a modern day Dr. Jekyll. It's a case of split personality, with extra features. For instance, when the good doctor changes into Mr. Hyde (yes, the villain chooses that name) he has enormous, not to say superhuman strength and incredible agility. And being set in modern times, the story incorporates a good deal of modern technology. But just when you think something is about to be explained, something else occurs to let you know that nothing is even remotely simple. Secrets abound, concerning almost every character in the story, so you really don't know where you are.

This series has the advantage of being written by Steven Moffat, who wrote the recent, very spooky Doctor Who episode Blink, as well as previous Who episodes, notably last year's wonderful The Girl in the Fireplace.

We've seen two episodes of Jekyll out of six, and so far it's been a roller-coaster of manic, gory fun. I hope it doesn't just fizzle out.

(As a companion piece to Jekyll, BBC Four has shown a one-off documentary, Ian Rankin Investigates: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, which relates how Robert Louis Stevenson came to write the original.)

Friday, June 15, 2007

I feel cheated

This may or may not be fair, but nevertheless I feel cheated.

I have subscribed to "Locus: the magazine of the science fiction & fantasy field" for several years. The magazine is sent to me from beyond the pond, by sea mail. Consequently I get each issue weeks after its publication date, but at a reasonable rate -- a rate further reduced by subscribing for two years at a time.

And then this turns up in my inbox:

Dear International Subscriber,

We value you as a subscriber and hope you are enjoying your magazine subscription. Earlier this year, the US Postal Service announced they would be raising their rates. With this rate increase came major unannounced changes to their entire International rate structure. International surface mail (sea mail) and international periodicals mail were discontinued. Without those two mailing services, we can only fulfill subscriptions by airmail.

These changes affect your subscription and all of our other international surface mail subscribers. We will be converting all our surface mail subscriptions to airmail. Current Canadian and Mexican subscribers will lose one issue from their periodical rate subscriptions. Our current International surface mail subscribers will receive two airmail issues for every three remaining surface mail issues. If you have any questions, or would prefer to receive a refund of the remaining balance on your subscription, please let us know. Our rates will be going up for first class Canadian subscribers on July 1, 2007. If you renew before then, you will get the old rates.

We are sorry to have to make these changes, we hope you understand why the conversion is necessary, and we thank you for your continued support.

I don't know. I agreed to pay for two years in advance on the understanding that I was securing 24 issues at the then current rate. I appreciate that Locus could not have foreseen the end of sea mail. But suppose there's a hike in the cost of paper, or printing, or another increase in airmail postage -- will they feel able to charge me for those as well, on my current subscription? If so, what's the point of paying two years (or more) in advance?

I haven't done the sums, but I hope the offer of cancellation doesn't mean I'll have paid more for the issues I've already received than I originally agreed to.

Not that I will necessarily opt for cancellation. As I say, I haven't done the sums.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Who are the lucky ones?

We are. That is, those of us lucky enough to be within broadcast reception range of BBC1 television at 7:10 on Saturday evening.

I've waxed ecstatic previously on this blog about the spin-off series Torchwood, and now I can do the same about its 'parent', Doctor Who.

Doctor Who? Kid's programme, innit? Maybe so, but it has all the ingredients of ideal family viewing -- something for the kids, something for the grown-ups. The latest series (number three of the 'reincarnated' version), with David Tennant really getting into his stride as the Doctor, and Freema Agyeman in her first series as his not-so-ditsy companion, has shown us some impressive spectacles, including the strangely art deco Daleks in a decidedly art deco New York, as well as the Bard of Avon in mischievous mode.

But the zenith of series three so far for me has been the two-parter that concluded last week: "Human Nature" and "The Family of Blood". Scripted by novelist Paul Cornell (who adapted his Doctor Who book Human Nature), these two episodes reveal characterization to a much greater depth than previously seen, and reinforce the notion that I've always felt about great science fiction -- that it tells us more about how we live our lives in the present, than how we might live in the future. Not that this particular story was about the future, despite the tantalizing glimpses of times that might have come to pass for some of the characters.

The Doctor is being pursued by the Family of Blood -- a group in search of a Time Lord for its own nefarious purposes -- and the only way he can evade detection is to become completely human. And he does so in a pre-First-World-War English public school, leaving Martha to look after not only herself, but his own Time-Lordly essence. When, at the beginning, he asks her if she trusts him, he's really asking himself if he trusts her.

Despite its historical setting, this story exhibits well-known SF tropes, such as an invisible space-ship, time travel (of course) and (hooray!) ray guns. (Or should that be hooray guns...?)

I'll not risk spoilers here, as I know that there are people not as lucky as those of us in the British Isles; impoverished souls who have yet to relish these episodes, condemned to wait until their local TV networks deign to show the latest series, and therefore reduced to squinting disjointedly at blocky YouTube fragments, or ploughing through online directories purporting not actually to host anything at all (apart from dubious thumbnail images that predominate in an excess of exposed skin).

For those less fortunate, but willing to search, may I suggest that entering such terms as "Doctor Who Human Nature Family of Blood" will harvest a veritable torrent of results.

Oh my, you have a treat in store.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Apple TV: useful at last?

Steve Jobs gave tantalizing glimpses of some Apple related things, and remained tight-lipped about others, in this interview with Walt Mossberg at the Wall Street Journal's D Conference (via Podcasting News).

The stuff about Apple TV is what interests me. To date I've remained unconvinced that Apple TV would be useful to me (see my previous rant here). But now that Apple TV is offering YouTube browsing, I hope that this signals further developments that might make it more useful to me. Apple have announced a fatter version of Apple TV with a 160 GB hard disk, so this does seem likely.

But what I need to know, before even considering buying one of these, either fat or thin, is this: will the Apple TV work with a monitor rather than a widescreen TV? I can't justify the purchase of a widescreen TV, but I do have a 19" widescreen computer monitor with a DVI input. This works with my Panasonic DVR using an adapter cable (HDMI to DVI) and it works with my MacBook using the same cable plus Apple's adapter. It seems reasonable to suppose that this set-up would work with Apple TV, but I don't know.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

My problem with God

Maybe you don't want to read about my problems. Maybe you don't want to read, in particular, about My problem with God.

I appreciate that -- along with politics -- religion is something that should probably be given its own discussion space. So that's why I've started a new blog, called Notes from an Evil Burnee, where you can find my various musings on faith, rationality, religion and scepticism (or skepticism for those beyond the pond).

I've discussed matters of faith before, here at Who says I shouldn't do this?, but such discussions will henceforth be posted over at Evil Burnee.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Never thought I'd see the day...

I've read the UK edition of Computer Shopper from the very first issue, when it came on saddle-stapled newsprint and cost only 50p. Since the passing of all those fondly remembered home computers such as the ubiquitous BBC Micro and Sinclair Spectrum, and the not-so-ubiquitous Oric, Memotech and (one for the uber-geeks) Jupiter Ace, Shopper became -- and has remained -- PC-centric.

So it was with surprise bordering on disbelief that I spied this page of buying advice in the latest (July 2007) issue:

Look at that recommended PC in the bottom right-hand corner. If you think your eyes are deceiving you, here's a blow-up:

Yes, it's a Mac.

Monday, April 23, 2007

This tech stuff is too hard

I use three computers on a regular basis. My PC is a full-tower monster with two hard disk drives and two DVD rewriters. It's not new, and over the past few months it's been giving me grief (other than the usual...). But that didn't matter too much, as I've been enjoying using my MacBook since last June. I also have a G4 Mac mini, which was my introduction to OS X and the modern Mac. (I've had a second-hand MacPlus for a few years, complete with maxed-out RAM -- all four megabytes of it -- and the legendary programmer's switch, just to prove my genuine geekness.)

I have only one printer in use, an Epson Stylus Photo R300, and until last weekend it was connected to the PC. But as I said, the PC has been giving me grief -- refusing to boot until the box had been powered up for five minutes or so, and even then shutting down a second or two after turning on. Sometimes it didn't shut down, but just sat there shouting at me (yes, really, the damn thing actually spoke -- something about CPU test failure). Other times it would begin its boot-up sequence but then stop with an 'overclocking failure'. This I could cope with, simply going into the BIOS settings and immediately saving and exiting -- it would then boot up okay.

But as you can imagine, this was getting to be a pain, especially when I wanted to print something. The PC is on my home network, and that's how I printed stuff from the Macs. Recently the PC has refused to boot up at all, and I've had to wait until the next day. I had already done some research to establish what the problem was, and had decided that the most likely culprit was the power supply. My PC has a good ASUS motherboard and a decent graphics card, but the manufacturer really skimped on some other components. The keyboard and mouse were utterly repellent. I replaced the keyboard within a week and the mouse within a month. It seems the PSU was a similarly cheap unit, and replacing it with a Jeantech 600W unit completely solved the boot-up problems.

So I could again print relatively easily from anywhere on the network using the shared printer connected to the PC. But if the PC wasn't on, I had to wait for XP to start before anything appeared on paper. I had already looked at print servers some time ago, and nothing seemed suitable (or reasonably priced) until I noticed that Linksys made a USB Print Server with a 4-port Ethernet switch, which looked like a good deal. I read some reviews on Amazon and elsewhere that made me think twice -- especially the point about the status monitor not working, which would mean you could run out of ink and not know which one of the six cartridges to change. I then found the manual on the Linksys website, in which it was pointed out that it's in the nature of network printing that two-way communication with the printer is lost -- it's not specific to Linksys.

During the course of my deliberations the printer did run out of ink when I was printing from the MacBook, and I realised that because the R300 has a small LCD status screen, the software status monitor isn't strictly necessary.

I decided to risk the purchase of the print server, given its price. It installed okay, using the supplied setup CD on the PC, and it worked fine printing from the PC.

There's no Mac software provided, but how hard can it be? Answer: very hard.

Following Apple's guidelines for installing a network printer did not work. The best I could get was page after page of Postscript commands. Other times I ended up with page after page of garbage. Trawling various forum posts, and the aforementioned Amazon reviews again, led me to believe that very few users had managed to make this thing -- the Linksys PSUS4 USB PrintServer -- work with Macintosh.

However -- and this is the purpose of this post -- I did get it to work, from both the MacBook and the G4 Mac mini, and here's how to do it:

It shouldn't be necessary to use the Linksys setup CD, as the PrintServer has a web interface accessible from a browser, but I'm assuming your setup is similar to mine (Windows XP PC and Macintosh OS X Version 10.4.9 on a home network using a wireless ADSL router). Here's what to do:

  1. Install the PrintServer according to the Linksys instructions, using the supplied setup CD on the PC.
  2. Using the Linksys utility change the PrintServer to static IP addressing, choosing a suitable address within the subnet.
  3. On the Mac, open the Print & Fax system preferences pane.
  4. Click the '+' button to add a printer.
  5. At the top of the Printer Browser window, click 'IP Printer'.
  6. In Protocol, select 'Line Printer Daemon - LPD'.
  7. In Address, type in the static IP address you chose for the PrintServer, such as ''. While you type, the Printer Browser will verify that you have typed a valid address.
  8. In Queue, type 'lpd'.
  9. You'll find that the IP address has been entered into the Name field. You can change this to something more meaningful.
  10. Location can be left blank.
  11. In Print Using, select the make of your printer from the list, then select the actual model of your printer from the model list, and click 'Add'.
  12. Close the Printer Setup Utility.
(I'm not certain all the above steps are absolutely necessary, but they worked for me.)

You should now have the network printer on the list when you next want to print something from the Mac. For me, this has worked on both the MacBook (Intel) and the Mac mini (G4 PowerPC). I can't vouch for any other set-up, but reading the tales of woe in the Amazon reviews has prompted me to make this post, to show that it can be done.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Tech, TV, Apple, DivX

I was fascinated when Steve Jobs announced the Apple TV. I like the idea of watching on TV media that has so far been confined to my computer.

There appear, however, to be a number of snags.

  • First, my TV is an old Toshiba 4:3 CRT with SCART and phono sockets. No way would the Apple TV interface to it without an expensive conversion box of some kind. But what about a widescreen LCD computer monitor? -- these can be quite cheap, even with a DVI input, and Apple are already selling reasonably priced HDMI-to-DVI cables. That might work. Maybe.
  • Second, some of the media I'd like to watch on my TV is intended for Windows Media Player, and I've installed various codecs into QuickTime so that I can watch this stuff on my MacBook. Couldn't I install these codecs on the Apple TV's internal hard disk? Highly unlikely. (I could transcode the files so that they play in standard QuickTime, but the idea is to make them easier to watch, not more difficult.)
But I've found a way to watch .avi files on my old Tosh TV.

Last week I bought from a local Argos Extra store, for £29.99, a Bush DVD2054DIVX DVD-player. So far it's played every .avi file I've tried in it, and I also found on the web a remote-hack to convert it to multi-region. It not only plays all my region 1 and region 2 DVDs, and my .avi files (whether on CD-R or DVD-R), but also mp3s and jpegs.

The 2054 is not listed in the current Argos catalogue or on the website. I went to the store to buy the 2051, which has an entirely different, compact form-factor. The 2054, however, is the conventional width, and fits better with other equipment. They told me when I paid that it might have 'some cosmetic differences.'

"Fine," I said, "as long as it does DivX."

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A theory with the intelligence designed out

While many of us in Britain have looked on in horrified fascination at the Intelligent Design debate currently in full swing in America, we may have become a little complacent that something like it is unlikely to happen here. But slowly, insidiously, it is happening here. Supporters of Intelligent Design are attempting to have Intelligent Design taught in UK school science classes. Search around a bit and you'll find plenty of evidence for this (though none for the theory itself).

I maintain that Intelligent Design -- as promulgated by such organisations as the dishonestly-named Truth in Science -- isn't actually a theory. Any argument that attempts to 'explain' observed phenomena by invoking a supernatural entity, about which we can know nothing, isn't explaining anything.

The ID-ists' arguments, when challenged by those who back evolution as a science-based or evidence-based theory, seem to be a combination of the following:

  1. "You say ID is based on faith, but so is evolution. Evolution is based on assumptions about 'the unobservable past', and is therefore not scientific -- not susceptible to observation and experiment."
  2. "You say that ID cannot admit of evidence because a theory that is faith-based springs from the pre-supposition that there is a creator/designer. But evolution is based on the pre-supposition that there isn't a designer."
These arguments appear to be attempts to place ID on an equal footing with evolutionary theory. But is seems to me that in order to assess the equality of these views one must look at the reasons for the respective pre-suppositions (if you accept that they are pre-suppositions).

On what basis can one 'pre-suppose' that
  1. there is a creator, or
  2. there is no creator?
(Note that these are mutually exclusive.)

Even if you find no evidence for a creator, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. But as Richard Dawkins lucidly demonstrates in The God Delusion, the existence of a creator is extremely improbable.

The ID-ists' tactics more often than not are to try to turn the evolutionist argument back on the evolutionists, without actually answering any of the evolutionists' criticisms. It's a tactic that can be effective -- until recognised, when it becomes obviously transparent.

This table-turning is likely to happen to the argument about 'Middle World' perceptions, which explains why so much of modern scientific thinking seems to go against common sense. An ID-ist's attempt at refutation might go something like this: "Just as our middle world perception cannot comprehend the very large or the very small, it also cannot comprehend the very transcendence of the other-worldly -- such as God. A rational approach to theism, therefore, is simply not valid."

The very large and the very small, however, are susceptible to rational analysis, whatever our common-sense perceptions tell us, whereas the transcendence of a creator is not, remaining an assertion of faith, without evidence.

Intelligent Design isn't a theory -- it's an intellectual cop-out.