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Snow Festival or Snow Storm?

“The temperature in Harbin reaches forty below zero, both Fahrenheit and Celsius, and stays below freezing nearly half the year. The city is actually further north than notoriously cold Vladivostok, Russia, just 300 miles away. So what does one do here every winter? Hold an outdoor festival, of course! Rather than suffer the cold, the residents of Harbin celebrate it, with an annual festival of snow and ice sculptures and competitions.”

So says a news report. But of course the images below from this so-called Harbin “snow festival” depict merely the detritus of a snow storm. Snow festival indeed! When are people going to get over their teleocentrism and stop trying to see everything as designed?

Random

Accident

Chance

Stochastic

Aleatoric

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27 Responses to Snow Festival or Snow Storm?

  1. Wow! That’s pretty awesome. Thanks for sharing those pictures. King David once asked, “What is man that you should be mindful of him?” The reason is obvious. We are kindred spirits because we’re all designers and artists under the skin.

  2. “But of course the images below from this so-called Harbin “snow festival” depict merely the detritus of a snow storm.”

    Indeed. Everyone knows that beautiful crystals of many kinds form spontaneously.

  3. Listen up everyone: Unless my brief Google search left something out, I’m herewith claiming priority in coining the term “teleocentrism,” which may be defined as “the predisposition of certain individuals and groups, especially those unschooled in Darwinian evolutionary theory, to ascribe objects, events, and structures found in nature to a designing intelligence.” Cognates include “teleocentrist” and “teleocentric.” Thus we might imagine Dan Dennett heaping abuse on ID theorists for being teleocentrists. By the way, I own the domain name teleocentric.com and am willing to sell it to a neo-atheist (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, Harris, etc.) for the modest sum of $5,000.00.

  4. 4

    Why hasn’t abstract snow art ever caught on?

  5. I know the hurricane in a junkyard theory, but howsabout a typhoon in a freezer?

    I’m sure the unused ice in the ice tray from my Southern Comfort & Coke mix could surely have, with a bit of wind, created anything.

    Maybe even a Snow Dembski …

  6. Dr. Dembski, I don’t think any of the atheists can afford $5000 right now. They need all that money to pay the ACLU to harass school boards.

    Could you maybe donate teleocentric.com to Galapagos Finch as a peace offering? I’m sure he could do more with it than any Darwinist.

  7. well you know, earth is an open system and gets all this energy from the sun so…emergence!

  8. “But of course the images below from this so-called Harbin “snow festival” depict merely the detritus of a snow storm.”

    Of course. Everyone knows (except ID creationists) that matter is not a medium used to express intelligence, but rather matter is all there is, ever was, and ever will be. Those phenomenon are beautiful though – if there is such a thing.

  9. Hmm. Having haled from the nord country – Minnesnowta – I seem to recall rumors of similar “objects d’art.” There appears to be some intelligence that more will appear soon.
    Winter Carnival Snow Sculpting Competition!

    “Approximately 15 three-member sculpting teams will have from 9 a.m. on Friday, January 25 until 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, January 27 to transform one 8’ x 8’ x 8’ block of snow into a work of art.”

    Perhaps some enterprising explorer could travel there and record the event to help identify the origin of these strange objects.
    Are there quantifiable differences between the eastern and western species? Some seem to have a different optical quality. See:
    Margaritaville Snow Sculptures
    Margaritaville Snow Sculptures vs
    Crystal Courtyard
    Crystal Courtyard
    Of particular interest is one that appears shaped like a snow flake but a bit larger. See:
    Ecolab ice maze
    Could the same natural forces have created it?

  10. 10

    In all seriousness, what is the essential distinction between this and what a parrot does.

    Or consider a bower bird that will build fantastic architecture with multiple rooms, each room devoted to a different artistic theme of his own whim, and the whole enterprise undertaken merely as an elaborate mating ritual.

    In the case of the birds at least, its all mechanism, isn’t it?

  11. 11

    Also, the rules for sculpture and snow sculpture is a body of knowledge that has been built up incrementally and refined over time, so that all of these sculptors were to a great extent using the same playbook. They weren’t self-taught, each using some technique peculiar to their own intelligence. They’re all probably in the same club actually.

  12. 12

    Over on the Mars thread, aren’t some arguing strenuously that natural forces can occasionally make a sculpture that looks just like a face or a human being?

    Anyone ever been to Southern Utah?

  13. 13

    Bill,

    This is a lot like the “World Ice Art Championship” that occurs in Fairbanks, AK each March. Similarly, it is a bunch of oddly-shaped blocks of ice, even multiple blocks stacked atop each other, that give the illusion of having been designed. Even more oddly, awards are given to various pieces, presumably based on the complexity of their “pseudo-design.” Folks actually come from around the world to see this spectacle. Silly teleocentrism, indeed.

    The Scubaredneck

  14. 14
    Unlettered and Ordinary

    Greetings!

    Hehe, I don’t believe it… Definitely there was no intelligence involved in these sculptures…

    Random snowflakes and natural wind currents built up over slow and steady increments to form what seems to be design. But you just have to remind yourself “there is no design, just the illusion of design.”

    BTW, paintings painted themselves and houses build themselves. NO DESIGN, NO INTELLIGENCE.

    These are nice, thanks for the post.

  15. There is evidence of mammoths frozen in the ice. Could this form an ice mold? Could there be a similar natural process to form the molds for the objects shown above?

    JunkyardTornado,

    In the case of the birds at least, its all mechanism, isn’t it?

    And correspondingly, is not the underlying issue just demonstrating how that mechanism is derived only from the four forces of nature?

  16. 16

    And correspondingly, is not the underlying issue just demonstrating how that mechanism is derived only from the four forces of nature?

    My understanding is that in ID, intelligence is invoked as another concept distinct from mechanism that humans obviously employ in their creative efforts. That’s what I’m taking issue with. I think humans are mechanisms and the ouput of mechanisms. I think that’s a model with a lot of clarity to it, and useful for reasons I’ve elaborated on elsewhere.

    From a personal standpoint, I recognize that is evident that reality itself is such that being such as ourselves can come into existence. So that tells you something about the inherent nature of reality. It could be argued that reality and God are synonymous concepts. Also, since the perceived duration of time is a subjective measure, No matter how long it took for some mechanism to generate humans, speed up the film a certain amount and they’re popping into existence instananeously. (Sort of an obscure philosophical point, but a compelling one I think, that I read somewhere once.)

  17. WEll its all because of Global Warming.

  18. Please also keep in mind that even though this phenomenon appears to be designed, it is still far, far less complex than a single living cell which we *know* was created solely through natural processes.

  19. Please also keep in mind that even though this phenomenon appears to be designed, it is still far, far less complex than a single living cell which we *know* was created solely through natural processes.

    Ha! Give it a few billion years or so and the ice sculptures of Harbin will evolve the ability to reproduce and migrate north to escape the summer heat, therefore starting the great semi-annual migration of Gelatum Harbineum Nordicum.

    There’s only one little hurdle to overcome: how do you evolve before you can reproduce? It’s not easy but there’s nothing that chance and time cannot design (oops, I mean evolve), what with the proven science of a million monkeys banging on a typrewriter and all that jazz? LOL.

  20. These sculptures probably are the result of chance and randomness. Call them “natural sculptures.” Im sorry to say it but I mean come on think about it- how many planets are there in the universe that probably have ice? and how long has ice been on this planet? I mean you would have to be a biblical fundmentalist to think even for a second that these things couldn’t be produced by chance.

  21. Re (3): I’m…coining the term “teleocentrism”…

    Dr. Dembski, please don’t forget the corollary term “mechanocentrism,” which may be defined as “the predisposition of certain individuals and groups, especially those indoctrinated in Darwinian evolutionary theory, to ascribe objects, events, and structures found in nature solely to mechanical* processes.”

    * Per mechanocentrism, stochastic processes processes are presumed to be strictly mechanical in nature.

  22. JunkyardTornado

    My understanding is that in ID, intelligence is invoked as another concept distinct from mechanism that humans obviously employ in their creative efforts. That’s what I’m taking issue with.

    You will also have to take issue with Quantum Mechanics and indeterminate or stochastic processes, and
    The Spiritual Brain by Beauregard and O’Leary

    See: Dembski’s Explanatory Filter addressing Law (Necessity), Chance, and Design.

  23. OK, let’s be clear. Bower birds do some interesting things, but they are no compettion for these sculptures, for heavens sake..

    http://www.bio.davidson.edu/pe.....ystem.html

  24. Per post 9, apparently more of these strange objects have occurred:
    Congratulations to the following 2008 Snow Sculpting Competition Winners!”Pictures are forthcoming:
    1st Place – “Rocket Man” (robot with power pack)
    2nd Place – I’m Telling Mom (treehouse)
    3rd Place – Dream Hunt (tee pee, buffalo and person, etc)
    People’s Choice – Winter Caps – trophy
    Artist’s Choice – Dream Hunt
    Vulcan’s Choice – “Vulcanopus” – an big Octopus with a Vulcan face”

    Strange descriptions for such “natural objects”.

  25. 25

    Anton wrote: OK, let’s be clear. Bower birds do some interesting things, but they are no compettion for these sculptures, for heavens sake..

    “The most notable characteristic of bowerbirds is the extraordinarily complex behaviour of males, which is to build a bower to attract mates. Depending on the species, the bower ranges from a circle of cleared earth with a small pile of twigs in the center to a complex and highly decorated structure of sticks and leaves — usually shaped like a walkway, a small hut or a maypole — into and around which the male places a variety of objects he has collected. These objects — usually strikingly colored — may include hundreds of shells, leaves, flowers, feathers, stones, berries, and even discarded plastic items or pieces of glass. The bird spends hours carefully sorting and arranging his collection, with each object in a specific place; if an object is moved while the bowerbird is away he will put it back in its place. No two bowers are the same, and the collection of objects reflects the personal taste of each bird and its ability to procure unusual and rare items (going as far as stealing them from neighboring bowers)…
    This complex mating behaviour, with highly valued types and colors decorations that in many species vary in attractiveness from year to year like fashion trends, has led some researchers to regard the bowerbirds as the most advanced of any species of bird.”

    I’ve seen two completely different hour long specials by Sir David Attenborough devoted just to Bower Birds. The one photo from the website you posted is the worst example of bowerbird building I’ve seen. However, pictures on the Web are not easy to find for some reason. The following from NOVA are from the one of the TV specials, but extremely poor quality images. Imagine the one at the top, but multiple rooms, with one room filled with only black beetle shells, the next room strewn with one particular type of flower, the next room, all blue objects of any kind, and so on. There’s limitless varieties of bowerbirds and none of them build the same way.

    Also, I just read a quote somewhere (and lost it) that said that it is completely learned behavior.

    This is a fairly decent photograph, but is a really below average example of what bowerbirds are capable of. (Really bad selection on the web, for some reason.)

  26. 26

    Step into the color-coordinated world of the South-Pacific bowerbird, where a complex architecture of found objects takes shape in the tropical forest.
    Maybe you’ve always thought that bachelor pads were for the birds–if so, you’d be right.
    The bowerbird has literally made name for itself constructing colorful tropical homesteads. Using flowers, feathers, fruit pulp, seeds, moss, snail shells, and just about anything else it can get its beak on, the male bowerbird displays an architect’s sense for assembling social space.
    University of Maryland biologist Gerald Borgia explains that some bowerbirds are even known to paint the inside walls of their ornamentally complex towers, roofed bridges, and display courts, using “a stain made from chewed plants, charcoal, and saliva.”

  27. JT, in response to Anton’s comment that they are no competition to human artistic creations like Mt. Rushmore, you have continued to further describe the extremely elaborate constructions of some species of bower birds. What I am waiting for is some analysis showing something in the bowers anything like the artistic power of the human-made sculptures. This would have to be in terms of art analysis and criticism discussing meanings and emotional power (the humanities) not purely objective hard science to which such things are meaningless illusions. Preferably something keeping in mind the great analysis in Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt’s A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature.

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