by Denyse O'Leary
Recently, we noted that Dr. Khan, of the Khan Academy education vids, seems to fancy himself a theologian and - on that basis - attacks design in nature in one of them.
(Just in case your kid isn't getting enough religion in Sunday school, Khan thoughtfully provides that too - but is it a religion you accept?)
This revelation left some parents scrambling for an alternative (lucky them if they have any say!) A friend points us to Interactive Biology ("Struggling with Biology? We'll Make it Fun.") for high schoolers.
Here's the teacher behind it:
We all know that there are MANY people out there who don't like biology. Ok, ok, there are even many out there who HATE it with a Passion. I know . . . it's hard to believe - such a fascinating topic with so much valuable information and people actually don't like it. Can you fancy that?
Our friend comments,
Here's the thing - I have a theory. My theory is that most people who don't like it, don't like it because of the way it was taught to them - A bunch of $100 words ...
Unlike Khan Academy, I couldn't find any videos on Darwin or evolution.... just straight biology. What a concept: teaching biology without Darwin. Is that good or bad? (What? You mean no just-so stories?)
Let's hope not. It's nice that we don't currently have the least idea whether Dr. Samuel thinks, BioLogos-style, "God would have/wouldn't have done it that way." Or the other "would haves," "may haves," and "might haves" starring in the endless reruns of the Darwin, Meet Reality Show.
If your kid wants religion at school, tell him to sign up in the Comparative Religion course or the World Philosophy course. Biology is the study of what actually does or did happen, not what we think about God.
Note r. Samuel contacted Uncommon Descent to say that he does not address the Darwin controversies. His note appears with the article.
by Denyse O'Leary
From "The flawed multiverse," Alastair I M Rae's Physicsworld (Sep 22, 2011) review of David Deutsch's The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that Transform the World:
According to the quantum-information theorist David Deutsch, our modern understanding of how the world works has provided us with "good explanations" that open up essentially infinite possibilities for future progress. One of these explanations is the idea of the quantum multiverse, which Deutsch discussed in the May issue of Physics World (pp34â€“38, print version only) and to which he devotes a chapter in his book The Beginning of Infinity.
I believe the many-worlds theory is open to criticism for reasons other than extravagence. One of these concerns probabilities in a situation where both outcomes occur in parallel. If both options are happening, how can it be meaningful to say that one is more probable than the other â€“ as is experimentally the case if the reflector is not exactly 50/50?
Rae isn't convinced that this Deutsch fixes - or others - resolve the problem, and is put off by the book's dogmatic tone. He comments,
As he described in his Physics World article, Deutsch's response is to propose that before the measurement, the photon is not just a single particle but is actually an (uncountable) infinity of identical or "fungible" particles. After interacting with the reflector, an infinite number of fungible photons exist in both output channels, but the ratio of these numbers is finite, so that each has a "measure" proportional to the squared modulus of the wavefunction. Even though an observer knows they are going to evolve into two copies of themself, they can apparently assign relative probabilities to which copy they expect to become. These probabilities are given by the Born rule. [Registration required.]
Deutsch willingly accepts that much of his inspiration comes from the work of Karl Popper, whose mantra "we have a duty to be optimistic" clearly underlies his thinking. However, he would have done well to remember that Popper was often dogmatic, to the point where some wags said that his book The Open Society and its Enemies should have been called "The Open Society by one of its Enemies"!
See also: Information as real and irreducible to physics? â€“ David Deutsch's surprising response
Denyse O'Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.
by Denyse O'Leary
In "'Accelerating universe' could be just an illusion" (MSNBC, September 27, 2011), Natalie Wolchover reports, "If true, theory would rid cosmology of its biggest headache - dark energy":
Now, a new theory suggests that the accelerating expansion of the universe is merely an illusion, akin to a mirage in the desert. The false impression results from the way our particular region of the cosmos is drifting through the rest of space, said Christos Tsagas, a cosmologist at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece. Our relative motion makes it look like the universe as a whole is expanding faster and faster, while in actuality, its expansion is slowing down â€” just as would be expected from what we know about gravity.
Folding up nicely, one supposes, into a duffle. And this is simpler:
If Tsagas' theory is correct, it would rid cosmology of its biggest headache, dark energy, and it might also save the universe from its harrowing fate: the Big Rip. Instead of ripping it to bits, the universe as Tsagas space-time envisions it would just roll to a standstill, then slowly start shrinking.
Tsagas may have shown that the universe either has dark flow or dark energy, but not both. Dark flow is by far the less mysterious of the two: While no one knows what dark energy is, or how we might find it, dark flow is merely movement.
by Denyse OLeary
From "Salty Water and Gas Sucked Into Earth's Interior Helps Unravel Planetary Evolution" (ScienceDaily Sep. 26, 2011), we learn:
Lead author Dr Mark Kendrick from the University of Melbourne's School of Earth Sciences said inert gases trapped inside Earth's interior provide important clues into the processes responsible for the birth of our planet and the subsequent evolution of its oceans and atmosphere.
It's a lot to ask of the meteorites.
"Our findings throw into uncertainty a recent conclusion that gases throughout the Earth were solely delivered by meteorites crashing into the planet," he said.
Because the composition of neon in Earth's mantle is very similar to that in meteorites, it was recently suggested by scientists that most of Earth's gases were delivered by meteorites during a late meteorite bombardment that also generated visible craters on Earth's moon.
These days, go for the more complex history.
"Our study suggests a more complex history in which gases were also dissolved into the Earth while it was still covered by a molten layer, during the birth of the solar system," he said.
by Denyse O'Leary
Critics haven't yet got to "it's just a fluke."
However it turns out, lawyer Edward Sisson writes to say,
The Frank Close argument presented below [here] (that the distance may have been mis-measured) is a question that would have been central to the design of the experiment in the first place, long before any actual data-collection was done. Thus, it seems to me that the people designing the experiment would not even have bothered to go ahead with it, unless they were satisfied that their technique for measurement of distance was reliable. The questioning of the distance-measuring technique is now being raised because the result of the experiment does not fit the theory. Selective special scrutiny of only aberrant results, rather than every result, produces an inherently biased experiment.
This reminds me of Milliken's "oil drop" experiment to determine the charge on the electron, which was the subject of one of the episodes of the 1980s physics TV series "The Mechanical Universe." Each time the experiment produced a result that was in accord with the theory, it was accepted as accurate, but each time the experiment produced a divergent result, there was a lot of inquiry into possible flaws in the operation of the experimental apparatus during that particular trial. The point made in the TV series is that the scrutiny of the apparatus only occurred with divergent results, never with consistent results.
by Denyse O'Leary
Anyone who has suffered through business motivation books has learned about the reptilian brain - the supposedly primitive part of the brain that difficult co-workers and family members are supposedly channelling.
You heard that? Now forget it. Not remotely related to real life. For one thing, as we learn in "Cold-blooded cunning Reptiles are more intelligent than previously thought" (The Economist, Jul 14th 2011), a species of anole lizards are at least as clever as tits (a bird well-studied for intelligence), researchers face a problem:
Having established that lizards are at least as clever as birds at such simple tasks, Dr Leal hopes to go on and explore the evolutionary forces behind lizard intelligence. He does, however, have a problemâ€”and it is one that might help to explain why, besides phylogenetic prejudice, the lizard mind has not been properly investigated before. Tits, being warm-blooded, have to eat a lot and thus have a strong incentive to collaborate with researchers in such experiments. The average lizard, by contrast, is happy to consume a single grub a day. It may therefore be some time before the next paper appears on the subject.In short, while Darwinism reigns (= the only explanation for intelligence is the need to compete for food, and mates), nothing can be learned about intelligence that gets past the fatuous motivation manual. What if curiosity were a motive?
See also: A really smart lizard would conceal the extent of its knowledge
Smart reptiles watch: So much for the dumb, unfeeling reptilian brain
Hat tip: AITSE
by Denyse O'Leary
From "Invasion of Genomic Parasites Triggered Modern Mammalian Pregnancy, Study Finds" (ScienceDaily, Sep. 26, 2011), we learn:
"In the last two decades there have been dramatic changes in our understanding of how evolution works," said Gunter Wagner, the Alison Richard Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EE and senior author of the paper. "We used to believe that changes only took place through small mutations in our DNA that accumulated over time. But in this case we found a huge cut-and-paste operation that altered wide areas of the genome to create large-scale morphological change." nonlocalizability, ...
Cut and paste from where, guys?
The Yale team studying the evolutionary history of pregnancy looked at cells found in the uterus associated with placental development. They compared the genetic make-up of these cells in opossums -- marsupials that give birth two weeks after conception -- to armadillos and humans, distantly related mammals with highly developed placentas that nurture developing fetuses for nine months.
They found more than 1500 genes that were expressed in the uterus solely in the placental mammals.
Which natural selection completely accounts for, operating in a glacially slow series of steps ...
It gets better:
Intriguingly, note the researchers, the expression of these genes in the uterus is coordinated by transposons -- essentially selfish pieces of genetic material that replicate within the host genome and used to be called junk DNA.
So the Darwinists fronting junk DNA were and are wrong. The Christian Darwinists who preach that junk DNA proves that Christians must embrace Jesus n' Darwin are wrong.
Notice how the announcement is cloaked in "we've figured it out now" language. But Darwin is dead. No matter what his lobby forces scared people to say or dense people to believe.
by Denyse O'Leary
First, how the calculated the measurements here.
From Frank Close at The Guardian:
"Renowned physicist Frank Close urges caution before we abandon the theory of relativity and prepare for time travel"
Sending a radio signal up to a satellite, at the instant the neutrino leaves Cern, which then passes it on down to the receiver in Rome, and comparing which arrives first, and by how much, has its own difficulties. The speed of radio waves through the atmosphere is affected by magnetic fields, and by other phenomena; it is far from simply a radio beam passing through a vacuum at "the speed of light". I would bet that a subtle error in the measured distance or time is more likely than that their ratio - the inferred speed - exceeds Einstein's speed limit. (24 September 2011)
(Note: Here at UD News, we don't propose making this our lives, but it's in a pretty interesting phase right now. For one thing, physicists may learn a lot from the error, if that is what it turns out to be. In an age of crackpot cosmologies and political science as the only kind, this proves physics really is a discipline.)
This week has seen the launch of a new website, with the title: "Teach evolution, not creationism!" registered by the British Humanist Association. The issue relates to education and the way the subject of origins is handled. The organisations in the campaign are the British Humanist Association, the Association for Science Education, the British Science Association, the Campaign for Science & Engineering and Ekklesia. There are 30 individual signatories and most publicity has been given to Sir David Attenborough. The Daily Telegraph's report said that "The naturalist joined three Nobel laureates, the atheist Richard Dawkins and other leading scientists in calling on the government to tackle the "threat" of creationism." What they want is "enforceable statutory guidance" that will allow legal sanctions to be taken if any publicly-funded school allows creationism or intelligent design to be presented as science. The only point science teachers would be allowed to make would be to declare these topics out-of-bounds for science students. The joint statement reads:
Creationism and 'intelligent design' are not scientific theories, but they are portrayed as scientific theories by some religious fundamentalists who attempt to have their views promoted in publicly-funded schools. There should be enforceable statutory guidance that they may not be presented as scientific theories in any publicly-funded school of whatever type.
But this is not enough. An understanding of evolution is central to understanding all aspects of biology. The teaching of evolution should be included at both primary and secondary levels in the National Curriculum and in all schools.
Should students be taken for a ride in a school bus by Dawkins? (source here)
The key features of the statement will be familiar to ARN readers. The statement takes a demarcationist view of science: they hold the view that science can be clearly distinguished from non-science and that creationism and ID are definitely outside science. Furthermore, they consider that the state has the responsibility to preserve the purity of science education by providing enforceable statutory guidance. In particular, the campaign is concerned that the teaching of evolution is not getting the emphasis it deserves: they view evolution as central to all aspects of biology and they want all schools to be teaching it at primary and secondary level.
The UK media coverage explained the campaign in some depth. The Daily Telegraph quoted Andrew Copson, chief executive of the BHA, who said: "the threat of creationism and 'intelligent design' being taught as science is real and ongoing, particularly as more and more schools are opened up to be run by religious fundamentalists". The Daily Mail said: "Those behind the call for 'evolution not creationism' say teaching that God created the world is dangerous and must be prevented by law." The Guardian reported: "The Department for Education says all schools must teach a broad and balanced curriculum, and creationism should not be taught as scientific fact. But a spokesman for the British Humanist Association (BHA) said: "That's precisely what we want to be monitored.""
Two organisations were highlighted in the Campaign's Position Statement as examples of what they are complaining about:
"Organisations like 'Truth in Science' are encouraging teachers to incorporate 'intelligent design' into their science teaching. 'Truth in Science' has sent free resources to all Secondary Heads of Science and to school librarians around the country that seek to undermine the theory of evolution and have 'intelligent design' ideas portrayed as credible scientific viewpoints. Speakers from Creation Ministries International are touring the UK, presenting themselves as scientists and their creationist views as science at a number of schools."
These two examples illustrate the paranoia that is afflicting the BHA and its collaborators. Neither of these offending organisations are departing from the Government guidelines about how creationism and intelligent design should be treated in schools. Truth in Science put a statement to this effect on its website here: "Truth in Science [. . .] has never advocated the teaching of creationism in science lessons in schools. It has consistently advocated, promoted and distributed materials that encourage a more critical approach to the teaching of Evolution as an important component of science education, allowing individuals to follow the evidence wherever it leads." The guidelines do not prohibit the development of critical thinking skills when evolutionary concepts are taught, and there is no shortage of evidence suggesting the textbooks are imposing theory based on ideology rather than grounding theory upon evidence. The CMI response is found here. The trigger for this complaint goes back to May 2011, when a CMI speaker was invited to speak to students at a Religious Education study day at a Church of England school in the city of Exeter. The students also heard a different view from another visiting speaker, designed to stimulate debate. This is also perfectly compatible with the government RE guidelines which encourage teachers to give students opportunities to explore the issues. However, of all the media reports, only the Guardian was prepared to represent the views of these two organisation:
"Truth in Science denied advocating the teaching of creationism in schools. "We wish to highlight the scientific weaknesses of neo-Darwinism and to encourage a more critical approach to the teaching of evolution in schools and universities," it said in a statement.
Creation Ministries International was unavailable for comment."
At this point, most normal people will wonder what all this fuss is about. Why this campaign - when the two prime examples are compatible with government guidelines? Why the apoplectic comments about "threats" and why are they insisting that teaching "that God created the world is dangerous and must be prevented by law"? To explain this, it is necessary to see the relevance of their demarcation arguments. They deem it vital to show that creationism and ID are delusions that belong outside science. They are not prepared to contemplate a situation where scientific arguments are used to falsify the evolution of molecules to man. Yet this is what they are faced with: arguments about information that allow design inferences to be made (as here and here); arguments about the fossil record that falsify gradualism (as here and here); arguments based on exquisite design rather than 'tinkering' design (as here and here), and so on.
The only way such discussions can be excluded from science is to redefine science. This is exactly what the humanists/atheists are seeking to do. This means that they are re-framing science so it fits their philosophical preconceptions. This results in them wanting to trample all over the academic freedom of people (teachers, parents, students, scientists) who do not share their philosophical stance. The ID community has drawn attention to these issues repeatedly, as in this past ARN blog. Here is a recent example from Dr Alastair Noble, Director of the Centre for Intelligent Design, UK.
"You might rule out an explanation which invokes intelligent mind because it does not fit within the ideological naturalism which is invading science. In that case you're no longer doing science, but have adopted an overarching philosophy of nature into which you then try to fit the data - a faith position in effect. [. . .] If the science of origins cannot be debated freely, in schools or anywhere else, then it's not creeping creationism we should be concerned about, but galloping intolerance."
There's much more that needs to be said. What is needed though is a wider debate. Until parents, educators and scientists generally see the practical importance of these issues, we face the prospect of a small elite group imposing its will on the majority by influencing policy-makers, journal editors and science organisations. We need academic freedom in schools, colleges and universities, but unless we stand against the thought-police, we have only ourselves to blame when we lose it.
More blogs on academic freedom:
Tyler, D. An appeal for authentic science studies, ARN Literature blog (5 February 2010)
Tyler, D. "Darwin's golden retriever" portrays ID as an assault on science, ARN Literature blog (5 June 2009)
Tyler, D. How to move beyond damaging pestilential wars, ARN Literature blog (15 February 2009)
by Denyse O'Leary
From "Evolutionary Tree of Life for Mammals Greatly Improved" (ScienceDaily, September 23, 2011), we learn:
Springer explained that the research team looked for spikes in the diversification history of mammals and used an algorithm to determine whether the rate of diversification was constant over time or whether there were distinct pulses of rate increases or decreases. The researchers found an increase in the diversification rate 80-82 million years ago, which corresponds to the time -- specifically, the end of the Cretaceous Terrestrial Revolution -- when a lot of different orders were splitting from each other.
"This is when flowering plants diversified, which provided opportunities for the diversification of small mammals," Springer said.
Hmmm. Almost as if it were spring-loaded.
Springer and colleagues also detected a second spike in the diversification history of mammals at the end of the Cretaceous -- 65.5 million years ago, when dinosaurs, other large terrestrial vertebrates, and many marine organisms went extinct, opening up a vast ecological space.
by Denyse O'Leary
Brains on Bias: When Atheists Factor In Faith, Guess Who Looks Stupid?
Edward B. Larson (1947â€“2002), an epidemiologist and psychiatrist, noticed a curious fact some years ago:
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) used many case examples that characterized religious patients as "psychotic, delusional, incoherent, illogical, and hallucinating," suggesting a general psychopathology that misrepresented clinical experience.
Do we hafta call the paramedic, or are you used to this already?
He observed that "the same scientists who were trained to accept or reject a hypothesis based on hard data seem to rely solely on their own opinions and biases when assessing the effect of religion on health."
by Denyse O'Leary
In â€œSpeed-of-light experiments give baffling result at Cernâ€ (BBC News , September 22, 2011) , Jason Palmer reports,
Neutrinos sent through the ground from Cern toward the Gran Sasso laboratory 732km away seemed to show up a tiny fraction of a second early. nonlocalizability,
The result - which threatens to upend a century of physics - will be put online for scrutiny by other scientists.
"We wanted to find a mistake - trivial mistakes, more complicated mistakes, or nasty effects - and we didn't," he told BBC News.
The neutrinos appear to have exceeded the speed of light. So,
The team measured the travel times of neutrino bunches some 15,000 times, and have reached a level of statistical significance that in scientific circles would count as a formal discovery.More.
Imagine if incredible Darwin claims were treated this carefully .... As if. If Darwinism were the problem, rewriting the scene would be the solution. Whatever had to happen to prove it would be true.
Fortunately, physics seems a bit sounder than biology just now.
by Denyse O'Leary
From â€œGravitational Waves Can Explain Dark Energy And Axis of Evil, Says Cosmologistâ€ (KFC, Physics Arxiv Blog, September 22, 2011), we learn:
â€œCosmos-sized gravitational waves would distort our view of the universe in a way that matches some of cosmologists' most puzzling observation, says cosmologistâ€ First there was the Big Bang. But that didnâ€™t explain everything. So now,
Until now, cosmologists have considered only waves with relatively short wavelengths. But Schluessel's idea is to imagine what the universe would look like if it contained much bigger waves with a wavelength of the order of the curvature of the cosmos itself, that's some 10^10 light years. These would be waves left over from the big bang that continue to resonate slowly on a vast scale
But wonâ€™t Larry Kraussâ€™s religion, and all cosmology generally disappear in the chaos? He knows the Truth about how it all has to end. And if heâ€™s wrong, wow.
Here's the thing. Schluessel says these waves would distort the microwave back ground radiation in way that matches the preferred directions cosmologists see today. What's more, it would also distort the light from distant objects in way that would make them look as if they were accelerating away.
You can see why we run these stories through the graveyard shift.
See also: Celeb atheists Dawkins and Grayling donâ€™t want to debate apologist Craig because â€¦ maybe a reason is now emerging â€¦ Larry Krauss!
by Denyse O"Leary
Back in the 1920s when, as the Scopes Trial showed, no Official Smart PersonTM questioned Darwinism, a scientist came across a curious phenomenon: Beetle eggs, stacked Of course he knew what to make of it.
"The discovery of the beetle laying eggs on top of each other is not a novel discovery," said Deas. "But they thought it"s a way to compete: That the beetles are stacking eggs on top of other beetles" eggs to crush them. They didn"t actually do any lab experiments to prove that those eggs are from exactly the same female."In the 1970s, another researcher did the same thing. Joseph Deas, University of Arizona Entomology, decided to quit telling Darwin legends and find out whether it was true that the eggs on top were laid by a competitor beetle.
They weren"t. All the eggs in a stack were laid by the same beetle. Stacked, the clutch was better protected from a parasitic wasp that kills beetle larvae by laying its own larvae inside them:
Deas measured the parasitism on eggs laid individually versus on bottom eggs in a stack to see whether having one or more eggs on top was sufficient to protect the bottom eggs. And sure enough, Deas found the individual eggs were parasitized much more frequently than those eggs that were shielded at the bottom of a stackThe capper:
As often happens in science, Deas came upon the discovery of M. amicus" strategy through the course of a different investigation.It doesn"t happen nearly as often as it should.
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Most investigators, faced with either doing science or announcing Darwin"s truths, will settle for announcing Darwin"s truths. It"s easier and safer and, in a journal article, it will look like science to the rest of us.
by Denyse O"Leary
And take the space aliens with them?
by Denyse O'Leary
It's the only solution.
Zool Syst Evol Res doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0469.2008.00505.x
W. J. Bock
Design â€“ an inappropriate concept in evolutionary theory*
Get this: "Yet if evolution depends on two simultaneously acting causes, one of which is accidental, then the process of evolution and all attributes of organisms are accidental."
The concept of accident in evolution refers to causes which are stochastic with respect to selective demands arising from the external environment and acting on the organism, while the concept of design refers to causes which meet the requirement of these selective demands. The condition _with respect to selective demands_ is generally forgotten so that evolutionary changes are described as being design modifications. Design is an invalid synonym for adaptation. Further it implies a designer and has been used by some authors since before Darwin to argue that design in organisms demonstrates the existence of a designer and hence a plan. Yet if evolution depends on two simultaneously acting causes, one of which is accidental, then the process of evolution and all attributes of organisms are accidental. The concept of design is inappropriate in biology and should be eliminated from all biological explanations.
Try to apply that to daily life: You set out to clear snow of the sidewalk, which is not accidental, and you skid and fall, which is. So everything that happened was accidental! Case closed ... or ... Well, now you see why they have to ban the concept
by Denyse O'Leary
And you can download it for free from the Royal Society until September 24, here.
Transitional forms between the three domains of life and evolutionary implications
Emmanuel G. Reynaud1,* and Damien P. Devos2,*
The question as to the origin and relationship between the three domains of life is lodged in a phylogenetic impasse. The dominant paradigm is to see the three domains as separated. However, the recently characterized bacterial species have suggested continuity between the three domains.
Here, we review the evidence in support of this hypothesis and evaluate the implications for and against the models of the origin of the three domains of life. The existence of intermediate steps between the three domains discards the need for fusion to explain eukaryogenesis and suggests that the last universal common ancestor was complex.
If the last universal common ancestor was complex ... and how long ago was that?
We propose a scenario in which the ancestor of the current bacterial Planctomycetes, Verrucomicrobiae and Chlamydiae superphylum was related to the last archaeal and eukaryotic common ancestor, thus providing a way out of the phylogenetic impasse.
by Denyse O'Leary
They may have declared their winner. Folk have been seeing this bumper sticker around town:
We have the fossils. We win.
That would be good news for Darwin, who didn't think the fossil record supported him, but hoped it would, one day.
The trouble is, that has been the trade secret of paleontology (Stephen Jay Gould) that it doesnâ€™t support him. It supports sudden, rapid emergence, which almost certainly means a non-Darwinian origin for change in life forms.
However, the lobby's choice seems intuitively right. The slogan appeals to people who don't know much about the issues except where they stand. Who they support. And what their views are.
These days, those people make the best, most reliable Darwinists.
Here's the promo for the sticker, for example:
A reminder that in the argument over evolution there is really only one type of evidence, and it's overwhelmingly on the side of those who believe in evolution.Oh? Only fossils matter? So all that supposed genetic evidence is bunk?
In many cases - if the history we are piecing together is correct - the fossils only tell us something in the light of other types of evidence. When two lines of evidence must be taken together, we cannot say there is really only one type of evidence."
So, on the whole, Darwinâ€™s pressure group has done right to connect with its base. The people who do not wonder about things like that.
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by Denyse O'Leary
The real battle in cosmology today is the war on rationality and orderliness. Let the balloons of naturalism drift unaccompanied into their endless night.
From physicist Bruce Gordon, "Balloons on a string," The Nature of Nature (ISI Books, 2011) p. 585:
The mindless multiverse "solution" to the problem of fine-tuning is, quite literally, a metaphysical non-starter. What the absence of efficient material causality in fundamental physics and cosmology reveals instead is the limit of scientific explanations and the need for a deeper metaphysical understanding of the world's rationality and orderliness. That explanation has always been, and will forever be, Mind over matter.
When the logical and metaphysical necessity of an efficient cause, the demonstrable absence of a material one, and the realized implication of a universe both contingent and finite in temporal duration, are all conjoined with the fact that we exist in an ordered cosmos the conditions of which are fine-tuned beyond the capacity of any credible mindless process, the scientific evidence points inexorably toward transcendent intelligent agency as the only sufficient cause, and thus the only reasonable explanation.
In short, a clarion call to intellectual honesty and metaphysical accountability reverberates throughout the cosmos: release the strings of nihilism and let the balloons of naturalism drift unaccompanied into their endless night. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.
by Denyse O'Leary
In "Brainy molluscs evolved nervous systems four times" (New Scientist, September 16, 2011), Ferris Jabr tells us,
The mollusc family includes the most intelligent invertebrates on the planet: octopuses, squid and cuttlefish. Now, the latest and most sophisticated genetic analysis of their evolutionary history overturns our previous understanding of how they got so brainy.
The new findings expand a growing body of evidence that in very different groups of animals â€“ molluscs and mammals, for instance â€“ central nervous systems evolved not once, but several times, in parallel.
Which is more consistent with design - or law - than Darwinian selection without plan or purpose.
Now, all this is based on certain methods of configuring how evolution happened. The methods could be right or wrong. But if they hold up,
The four groups that independently evolved centralised nervous systems include the octopus, a freshwater snail genus called Helisoma, Tritonia â€“ a genus of strikingly coloured sea slugs â€“ and Dolabrifera, another genus of sea slugs, albeit less aesthetically interesting.Which all just happened, right?
See also: Hereâ€™s the best online port of call for convergent evolution
by Denyse O'Leary
Evelyn frowned, "The teacher didnâ€™t seem to mind. She just wants me to be sure to give evidence for both sides of the debate."
Crocker herself is one of the Expelled. She should know.
I did not want to be paranoid, but I also wanted to protect this brilliant young lady from those who might not hesitate to ruin her future. "Okay, just be sure that you're careful about what you say."
"Would it also be okay for us to meet, to talk about any questions I have about the project?"
I smiled, witing my phone number on a scrap of paper. "Sure, why don't we get together at Starbucks. We can talk then."
Barry, where are you?
As it turned out, Evelyn did stay in contact with me by e-mail up until the time she gave her presentation although we didn't have a chance to go for coffee. She shared her own journey towards doubting neo-Darwinian evolution, However, after her presentation, I did not hear from her again. Cheryl, a friend of hers, told me that this was because a group of faculty members had confronted Evelyn about her views on evolution, leaving her shaking and in tears.
It was so painful and frightening that Evelyn had decided that in order to secure her future she should never again mention her doubts about neo-Darwinian evolution. In addition, she resolved that she should also never again speak to me. Unfortunately, her decision came to late; I later learned that she was denied entrance into medical school. (p. 132)Barry?
by Denyse O'Leary
(Who said science was useless ... ?)
From "Captivated by Critters: Humans Are Wired to Respond to Animals" (ScienceDaily, Sep. 9, 2011), we learn:
... researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and UCLA report that neurons throughout the amygdala -- a center in the brain known for processing emotional reactions -- respond preferentially to images of animals.Working with 41 epilepsy patients who were already monitored for stress, they found.
"Our study shows that neurons in the human amygdala respond preferentially to pictures of animals, meaning that we saw the most amount of activity in cells when the patients looked at cats or snakes versus buildings or people," says Florian Mormann, lead author on the paper and a former postdoctoral scholar in the Division of Biology at Caltech. "This preference extends to cute as well as ugly or dangerous animals and appears to be independent of the emotional contents of the pictures. Remarkably, we find this response behavior only in the right and not in the left amygdala."
Hmmm. The researchers are likely onto something, but a better explanation for their find is surely needed. "Unexpected and biologically relevant stimuli" could include fire, flood, and nearby lightning strikes - none are life forms, but all are "biologically relevant" if the biology in question is one's own. The same could be said for long lost allies or strangers who appear suddenly from nowhere, and offer no word of greeting.
Mormann says this striking hemispheric asymmetry helps strengthen previous findings supporting the idea that, early on in vertebrate evolution, the right hemisphere became specialized in dealing with unexpected and biologically relevant stimuli, or with changes in the environment. "In terms of brain evolution, the amygdala is a very old structure, and throughout our biological history, animals -- which could represent either predators or prey -- were a highly relevant class of stimuli," he says.
The thing about animals is that we know they are sentient. And variously endowed with intelligence, but not rational. That may be the significance of a separate way of reacting to them. Their behaviour is sensed as neither automatic nor the product of national choice - rather, a middle ground that suggests different responses.
by Denyse O'Leary
In a recent Fox News poll,
45 percent of voters accept the Biblical account of creation as the explanation for the origin of human life on Earth, while 21 percent say the theory of evolution as outlined by Darwin and other scientists is correct. Another 27 percent say both explanations are true.
That's probably because the upcoming US election will likely turn on beliefs about the economy rather than origins. There's been an increase in the number of people who believe Darwin, from 1999 through 2011: From 15% to 21%. And a decrease in those who believe "the Biblical account" (down to 45 from 50%). Which is just enough to be statistically significant.
Belief in creationism, however, fails to explain Republican presidential primary preferences. Frontrunner Rick Perry is the top choice for GOP primary voters who believe in creationism as well as those who believe in evolution.
That said, the current enthusiasm of Republican prez hopefuls (the latest was Ron Paul) for nixing Darwin is most likely due to the reverence paid him by the Ivy League. These are bad times in which to be an establishment expert.
See also: When science is nuts, anti-science is newly respectable
Continued silliness. The generalization that carnivorous plants tend to live in nutrient-poor environments applies to Utricularia as well. There might be some exceptions, but they are just that, exceptions to the general rule.
We need look no farther than Wikipedia:
Distribution and habitat
Utricularia can survive almost anywhere where there is fresh water for at least part of the year; only Antarctica and some oceanic islands have no native species. The greatest species diversity for the genus is seen in South America, with Australia coming a close second. In common with most carnivorous plants, they grow in moist soils which are poor in dissolved minerals, where their carnivorous nature gives them a competitive advantage; terrestrial varieties of Utricularia can frequently be found alongside representatives of the carnivorous generaâ€“Sarracenia, Drosera and othersâ€“in very wet areas where continuously moving water removes most soluble minerals from the soil.
Although, if you like, I could start quoting experts which even Loennig would agree are experts (since he cites their work at various points in his monograph). I have all of the major works on CPs [carnivorous plants].
Now, I am happy to debate carnivorous plant evolution with folks, but there is really no point if you guys (and Loennig) can't accept basic facts of the case without obfuscation and insult. This question must be answered before any further discussion on the evolution of carnivorous plants can take place: is the above statement basically correct, or not?
He adds here,
The standard theory is that carnivory in plants is an adaptation to increase nutrient uptake in environments where (chemically available) nutrients are scarce. Low nutrients = the primary selective pressure that gave an advantage to variations that allowed the improved trapping of insects.
Now, if the above were accepted, we could move on to have a discussion of whether or not it is reasonable to thing that the necessary variations to produce plant carnivory could occur â€” and from there, we could then move to a discussion of whether or not the processes that could produce sticky-leaf-traps and pitcher-plant traps could also eventually produce Utricularia-type bladder traps.
But, Loennig and his fans have launched a series of UD posts claiming that the evolutionary explanation of plant carnivory is bogus idiocy from the get-go, because they apparently think that it's not true that CPs typically live in nutrient poor habitats, thus there is no reason for natural selection to favor such adaptations. They have been raising hell about it in a half-dozen posts, but without any attempt to review the massive and well-known (and available) literature on this topic. Loennig undoubtedly knows better, deep down, but he's letting his fans get away with very silly statements.
Everything seems to depend here on whether the standard theory is a correct statement of the behaviour of carnivorous plants - because that theory is under evidence-based dispute, it cannot be cited to judge the case.
So, like I said, there's no point in continuing unless this kind of basic observational fact is accepted on all sides.
In any event, Dr. Loennig replied re Dr. Matzke's comments, as follows:
Well, Matzke is strongly beating about the bush. Instead of answering in detail
key questions like
Why does Nick not answer Nachtwey's questions on the evolution of Utricularia's trap? Suction in half a millisecond: How did the trap become watertight and functional as a suction trap with all its synorganized anatomical and physiological details by a series of random 'micromutations' with slight or even invisible effects on the phenotype (Mayr)?
- he simply presupposes his mutation-selection theory as being entirely correct. And the infinite invention of non-testable evolutionary scenarios of how something could have evolved puts the synthetic theory outside science. See the details and discussions on such scenarios here.
Also, the question of how many of the aquatic Utricularia species can and do live in meso- to eutrophic (instead of oligotrophic) environments is, of course, not answered by quoting a general statement from the Wikipedia. For a scientifically correct answer the question has to be further investigated whether most (or exactly how many) of these species really occur in oligotrophic environments only and how or to what extent the 7 exceptions I mentioned so far (really all that I have precisely checked until now) disturb or even disprove the adaptionist viewpoint. And what about the almost 100 Pinguicula species that I have mentioned earlier? And many more cases are known. (Of course, I do not deny that many carnivores like Dionaea muscipula and most Drosera species and others really live - together with many non-carnivorous plants - "in nutrient impoverished substrate" - Fleischmann 2010, p. 843).
Above all: Even in (the wrong) case or scenario that all Utricularia species were living in oligotrophic environments - this would, of course, not explain the origin of their suction traps by mutations and selection (without ID) anymore than the adaptation of automobiles (wheels, motors, brackets, lights etc.) to roads and a thousand different tasks would explain their origin without intelligent design.
As to the details on Kingsley see p. 8 ff.: I did not simply copy Taylor's mistake but commented on it in detail in the paper just referred and linked to above already several years ago; it would really consume a lot of time to correct all the doubtful or false presuppositions and statements of Nick Matzke, who obviously did not carefully study my papers.
From "Jumping Gene's Preferred Targets May Influence Genome Evolution" (ScienceDaily, Sep. 6, 2011) , we learn:
The scientists used the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, one of the premier "model" organisms for studying genome structure and gene function. They focused on one particular transposon, called the P element, which has an unsurpassed ability to move that has stimulated its widespread use by Drosophila researchers. " "
Remarkably, P elements have only been present in Drosophila melanogaster for about 80 years, at which time they were acquired from the genome of a distantly related fruit fly species by an unknown process. P elements remain highly "infective" today. Adding just one copy to the genome of one fly causes all the flies in a laboratory population with which it breeds to acquire 30 to 50 P elements within a few generations. The original goal of the Spradling team's research was not to understand how transposons spread or genomes evolve, but something much simpler: To learn why P elements insert at some locations in the genome but not in others.
Definitely an idea worth pursuing, but what they must now demonstrate is permanent, functional improvements resulting from this process.
P elements insert into DNA very selectively. Nearly 40% of new jumps occur within just 300 genes and always near the beginning of the gene. But the genes seemed to have nothing in common. When these sites were compared to data about the Drosophila genome, particularly recent studies of Drosophila genome duplication, the answer became clear. What many P insertion sites share in common is an ability to function as starting sites or "origins" for DNA duplication. This association between P elements and the machinery of genome duplication suggested that they can coordinate their movement with DNA replication.
by Denyse O'Leary
In "Darwin's failures are positive sources of information for ID," I noted
Failures of Darwinism are not merely a negative. They are a positive. The growing number of stress points at which Darwinism fails can, taken together, form a picture, one that points to general laws that govern how high levels of information are produced in life forms.
And in "All renovation projects start as teardowns"
Throwing out assorted Darwinisms is like renovating a badly treated century home. The first thing we do is rent a dumpster. Because we must clear away the rubbish to rescue the core value. One outcome is that 99% of the initial work is, unavoidably, teardown.
The teardown takes longer and costs more than we hope. But now we're here. So what's next?
Next is assessing the size and shape of the fail points. What are the similarities and the differences between the gaps that Darwinism* cannot bridge without violating the boundary of what, it is generally agreed, cannot happen by chance in this universe. Darwinists do everything they can to stop people from applying that obvious measure.
Ignoring them, can we gain information that enables us to make successful predictions that can be generalized?
It's hard to say what comes afterward simply because we need the answers to some of these questions to know precisely where further research into actual causes of evolution would pay off.
Put another way: Intelligent design will prevail when engineers rule.
*Darwin himself usually resorted to slippery, well-executed rhetoric at these points. We admire such displays but prefer information.
In "The last five years: Darwin's failures are positive sources of information for ID," I noted
Failures of Darwinism are not merely a negative. They are a positive. The growing number of stress points at which Darwinism fails can, taken together, form a picture, one that points to general laws that govern how high levels of information are produced in life forms. Obviously, as with dpi, the more such points, the clearer the picture. We can't have too many of them, though eventually, there will be enough to work productively with.
Throwing out assorted Darwinisms is like renovating a badly treated century home. The first thing we do is rent a dumpster. Because we must clear away the rubbish to rescue the core value.
One outcome is that 99% of the initial work is, unavoidably, teardown.
In the case of evolution, as Mike Behe realizes, we must compute the edge of natural selection's ability to create new information: Just beyond that edge may lie the principal sources of new information.
Of course, computing the edge involves a number of questions: Is it the same for all life forms? If not, which ones differ and what characteristics might they have in common?
Of course, sidelining the usual, tiresome, untethered "Darwin dunit" accounts would be a plus, but it is certainly not the motive for the project.
See also: How far has ID come in the last five years
by Denyse O'Leary
From "Geometry of Sex: How Body Size Could Lead to New Species" (ScienceDaily, Aug. 29, 2011), we learn:
Different species of scincid lizards, commonly known as skinks, rarely interbreed, but it's not for lack of trying. According to Jonathan Richmond, a researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey, different species of skinks in western North America will often try to mate with each other when given the opportunity, but mechanical difficulties caused by differing body sizes can cause these encounters to fail.
This is most enlightening, but it doesn't really explain how speciation happened.
After observing hundreds of cross-species mating attempts in the lab, Richmond and his colleagues developed a computational model showing how size differences create reproductive barriers between skink species. In order to align their genitals for successful insemination, the male must corkscrew his body around the female. Once the sizes of the male and female diverge outside the threshold of the researchers' model, successful mating was very rare. The model elucidates the role body size plays in splitting skinks into separate species. For skinks, it apparently isn't behavioral preference that prevents gene flow between species. It's the mechanics of body size.
What it really explains is why "de-speciation" doesn't happen in skinks Even discussing this question implies, without saying it, that retreats from speciation are common and normal in life forms. (The dog, wolf, and coyote never succeeded in making a clean break, but then they remained within a size range, more or less.*)
Given that most skinks would be better off, from the point of view of spreading their genes, in a large population of just-right mates, we still need to understand how size came to vary so much despite that fact.
Wait a minute, Dr. Redmond. We haven't yet figured out why size diverges so much. But this is a promising start.
"As size diverges, the corkscrew fails," Richmond said. "In this case, it just happens that this is about the only thing necessary to get the ball rolling for speciation."
Here's a truly formidable scientific explanation from a dog: "If you're not with the one ya love, ya love the one yer with! Yap! Yap! Yap!"
See also: Land-based fish helps researchers assess how animals moved to land â€“ and stayed there
by Denyse O'Leary
In "Stone tools shed light on early human migrations" (Nature, August 31, 2011), Matt Kaplan tells us that "Hominins with different tool-making technologies coexisted,"
The axes, found in Kenya by Christopher Lepre, a palaeontologist at Columbia University in New York, and his team are estimated to be around 1.76 million years old. That's 350,000 years older than any other complex tools yet discovered.e significant finding is that the hand axes from 1.5 million years ago were found beside primitive chopping tools of a type used a million years earlieDid one type of human make both types of tools? Stone toolmaking is hard work, and it may be that no one saw a need to embellish a device that worked fine as it was for chopping meat or vegetables.
File under: Older than thought
See also: Stone tools nearly 2 million years old â€“ and Michael Cremo is still wrong?
Were people cooking two million years ago?
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Evolution has become a favorite topic of the news media recently, but for some reason, they never seem to get the story straight. The staff at Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture started this Blog to set the record straight and make sure you knew "the rest of the story".
A blogger from New England offers his intelligent reasoning.
We are a group of individuals, coming from diverse backgrounds and not speaking for any organization, who have found common ground around teleological concepts, including intelligent design. We think these concepts have real potential to generate insights about our reality that are being drowned out by political advocacy from both sides. We hope this blog will provide a small voice that helps rectify this situation.
Website dedicated to comparing scenes from the "Inherit the Wind" movie with factual information from actual Scopes Trial. View 37 clips from the movie and decide for yourself if this movie is more fact or fiction.
Don Cicchetti blogs on: Culture, Music, Faith, Intelligent Design, Guitar, Audio
Australian biologist Stephen E. Jones maintains one of the best origins "quote" databases around. He is meticulous about accuracy and working from original sources.
Most guys going through midlife crisis buy a convertible. Austrialian Stephen E. Jones went back to college to get a biology degree and is now a proponent of ID and common ancestry.
Complete zipped downloadable pdf copy of David Stove's devastating, and yet hard-to-find, critique of neo-Darwinism entitled "Darwinian Fairytales"
Intelligent Design The Future is a multiple contributor weblog whose participants include the nation's leading design scientists and theorists: biochemist Michael Behe, mathematician William Dembski, astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, philosophers of science Stephen Meyer, and Jay Richards, philosopher of biology Paul Nelson, molecular biologist Jonathan Wells, and science writer Jonathan Witt. Posts will focus primarily on the intellectual issues at stake in the debate over intelligent design, rather than its implications for education or public policy.
A Philosopher's Journey: Political and cultural reflections of John Mark N. Reynolds. Dr. Reynolds is Director of the Torrey Honors Institute at