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SETI and Singularity Pharyngula’d

In back-to-back postings on his blog Pharyngula, P.Z. Myers has taken to both Ray Kurzweil’s transhumanist dreams as well as the (non-)viability of SETI. Myers, being a developmental neuroscientist, is reasonably well-placed to comment in the first case about Kurzweil’s quest to recreate the brain artificially. And ironically, he echoes some of the issues I’ve brought up about both ‘the Singularity’ and with the logic of SETI. Just he’s more of a dick about it:

Ray Kurzweil must be able to spin out a good line of bafflegab, because he seems to have the tech media convinced that he’s a genius, when he’s actually just another Deepak Chopra for the computer science cognoscenti.

…He’s not just speculating optimistically, though: he’s building his case on such awfully bad logic that I’m surprised anyone still pays attention to that kook.

…I’ll make one more prediction. The media will not end their infatuation with this pseudo-scientific dingbat, Kurzweil, no matter how uninformed and ridiculous his claims get.

…If you’re an acolyte of Kurzweil, you’ve been bamboozled. He’s a kook.


I’ve never been a fan of SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. It’s like playing the lottery obsessively, throwing down lots of money in hopes of a big payoff, and I don’t play the lottery, either.

I’d really like to know if Seth Shostak is innumerate enough to play the lottery, though, because his recent claim that we stand a good chance of discovering extraterrrestrial intelligence within 25 years. All right, bring it: let’s see your evidence for such a claim.

Now firstly, I have to say that I find his willingness to offer criticism refreshing. Skeptics generally conform to certain internal rules and rarely self-criticize, and at the moment SETI are well and truly considered part of the skeptical community, while Kurzweil sits in a seat with a good view within the tech-pantheon. On the other hand, it just seems more of “angry Paul” that we’ve come to know and laugh at…P.Z. seems to either have some sort of anger problem, or perhaps he just knows how to butter his bread and keep the page visits flowing. There’s some good points in there, but in the end his attitude will just work against him. As George Dvorsky mentioned at Sentient Developments, “Let’s lose the ad hominem“.

Makes you wonder if there’s a mathematical formula that will tell you how long it will take for Myers to marginalize himself into an audience of one.

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