July 1, 2007 - July 7, 2007 Archives

This video is one of the most effective criticisms of Ham's horrible little monument to ignorance in Kentucky — it's a geological tour of the rocks the “museum” is built upon. It seems the creationists chose to build on some beautifully fossil-rich Ordovician layers.

It convinces me that if I were in the Cincinnati area I'd rather kick around in the hills around the area than to waste my time in a pile of bunk.

A book-length report of the Committee on the Limits of Organic Life in Planetary Systems (commissioned by NASA) based on today’s best science is available free online here (It also can be purchased in a printed form from National Academies Press - see the above link).

Robert Crowther Wrote:

Critics of intelligent design theory often throw this question out thinking to highlight a weakness in ID. Richards shows that the theory’s inability to identify the designer is not a weakness, but a strength. ID does not identify the designer is because ID limits its claims to those which can be established by empirical evidence.

This is yet another example of why ID is scientifically vacuous. Indeed, if the designer could be established by empirical evidence, it would immediately eliminate the ‘Intelligent Designer’ as proposed by ID, namely a supernatural designer called ‘God’. In fact, in order to establish a ‘designer’ and in fact ‘design’ science inevitably uses such concepts as means, motives, opportunity, capability and so on. In addition, science uses eye witness accounts, physical evidence and more to support its thesis.

So how does ID infer design? Simple by arguing that a particular system or event cannot be explained by natural processes and thus should be seen as evidence for design. While ID also requires a specification, such specification is trivial, all that is required is some imagination about function.

ID faces a real problem: Either it insists that it cannot determine much of anything about the Designer which makes the ID inference inherently unreliable and thus useless (Dembski) or it attempts to become scientifically relevant but then it can at best conclude ‘we don’t know’.

So why do ID proponents still insist on such a flawed premise? Kitzmiller and Judge Jones explain.

…as you can see by looking at the cool video of science bloggers at the American Society of Microbiology meeting. You do get to meet fellow PT blogger Tara Smith there, as well as our buddy Larry Moran.

This just in. Current Biology has published a short dispatch piece reviewing the flagellum evolution issue:

W. Ford Doolittle and Olga Zhaxybayeva (2007). “Reducible Complexity - The Case for Bacterial Flagella.” Current Biology, 17(13), R510-R512. July 3, 2007. DOI

I recently expressed some discouragement about the capabilities of blogs for critiquing scientific papers. I still have those reservations, but here is a data point that leans the other way:

Prof. Steve Steve’s buddy breaks out:

In the comments section of another thread over at Pandas’ Thumb, I asked leading ID proponent Paul Nelson to explain why he thinks the differences between humans and chimps represent macroevolution and not microevolution. Dr. Nelson responded to my question. The terms microevolution and macroevolution are so frequently used in the context of creationism, Intelligent Design, and evolution, so I thought it might be a good idea to move the topic to a new thread.

In addition to linking to Paul’s comment, I’ll also reproduce it in full at the end of this post. That should make it easier for people to see what he said in its entirety, without my commentary.

My question to Dr. Nelson was this:

While you’re here, and this is genuine curiosity on my part, could you take a couple of minutes to elaborate on exactly why you believe that human-chimp divergence is macroevolutionary rather than microevolutionary?

I asked that because he had just written a blog post in which he classified (more than once) the divergence of chimps and humans as “macroevolutionary.” The beginning of his response to my question is somewhat dismissive:

Micro, macro, tomato, tomahto…”I am apt to suspect there enters somewhat of a dispute of words into this controversy” (Hume 1779).

I’ve spent the last two years studying evolutionary biology, molecular ecology, speciation, and related subjects at the graduate level. My interest in evolution started well before that, and I’ve been following the various creation-evolution controversies for a solid decade now. I have absolutely no problem with the idea that the distinction between macro- and microevolution is nothing more than a dispute over words.

The thing is, they’re not my words.

Read More (at The Questionable Authority):

When an anti-evolutionist attempts to publicly “explain” a scientific paper, it usually signals two things: you should read the paper for yourself, and you should not be surprised to find that the creationist “explanation” misrepresents what the paper really says. A new blog post by Paul Nelson is no exception. Nelson, descending from the (relative) intellectual heights of the Discovery Institute to join the crowd at Dembski’s Whine Cellar, tells his readers that scientists did not grasp the true point of a 1975 paper because they did not read it all the way through.

The paper in question is a relatively famous one - it’s a paper in Science by Mary-Claire King and Allan Wilson that compared the available measures of genetic difference between humans and chimps with what was known about the morphological, behavioral, and cultural differences between the two species. King and Wilson, in this paper, calculated that there was a 1% genetic difference between humans and chimps, and that this difference is not enough to account for how different the two species really are. Nelson claims that scientists focused on the first finding because it was reported early in the paper, and missed the second part because it came later, after us lazy lab boys had given up on reading. (Nelson apparently believes that scientists share his work ethic.)

Read more (at The Questionable Authority):

As some of you may know, I’m working on a new layout for the Panda’s Thumb and updating our backend at the same time. I’ve decided that this might be a good opportunity to delegate my work load to other experienced programmers.

I have a list of several projects that I’d like to complete before the role out of PT 2.0. So if you are interested in helping, send me a email at [Enable javascript to see this email address.]. I am looking for people who have lots of experience with Perl, MoveableType, MySQL, PostgreSQL, AJAX, JSON, Prototype, and/or Javascript.

Over at Uncommon Descent, the blog of William Dembski and friends, a contributor has a post up discussing Peter Duesberg’s aneuploidy hypothesis for cancer (which Orac discussed here for more background). The post itself is a bit confusing–it’s titled “When Darwinism Hurts,” and according to the author’s clarification, it’s about “Darwinism” leading us down the wrong path as far as cancer research goes. (Though whether cancer would be due to mutations in specific genes or in chromosomes, it’s still an evolutionary process, but I digress…) To me, anyway, the more interesting portion was in the comments section, where both DaveScot and Sal Cordova imply also that HIV might not cause AIDS; more over at Aetiology.

The UK government has followed in the footsteps of the Dover ruling by confirming that “intelligent design”, aka “neo-creationism” will not be taught in schools as part of the National Curriculum, reports VNU Net.

“The government is clear that creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science.”

Recently the Council or Europe released a report addressing their concerns with “Intelligent Design”.

Haldane’s non-dilemma

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Quick, before I start the post proper, guess how many beneficial mutations separate us from the last common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees. Write your guess on a bit of paper, then read on.

Over at Uncommon Descent, Dave Scott opines

“Coyne and his chance worshipping peers are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The rock is gradualism and the hard place is Haldane’s Dilemma (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haldane’s_dilemma) . As gradualism gets more gradual Haldane’s Dilemma gets more difficult to overcome – there’s a limit to the number of mutations that can become fixed. As gradualism gets less gradual then the improbability of simultaneous beneficial mutations becomes more difficult to overcome. A truly classic example of being stuck between a rock and a hard place!”

The “simultaneous beneficial mutations” argument is a relatively new (or at least rejigged) argument that is dealt with elsewhere (see also here). However, Haldane’s dilemma has been a favoured argument in anti-evolution circles for a long time. Unfortunately for the anti-evolutionists, Haldane’s dilemma has never been a barrier to evolution, despite their misrepresentations. Recent work from the Human, Chimpanzee and Macaque genome projects underlines the fact that Haldane’s dilemma does not prevent evolution, and it is worthwhile revisiting one of the core anti-evolution arguments relating to it in the light of these results.

Although the line above says that this is a post by Mark Perakh, in fact I only served as a conduit for posting Professor Jerry Coyne’s material.

Professor Coyne has published a review (see here ) of Michael Behe’s new book titled The Edge of Evolution. Along with other reviewers, such as Mark Chu-Carroll, Sean Carroll, Richard Dawkins, and others, Jerry Coyne views Behe’s new book as Behe’s poorly substantiated (and vain) attempt to somehow pull up Behe’s status from the deep pit he finds himself in after the Dover trial, and thus to be re-admitted to the scientific community as a genuine scientist.

Behe responded to Coyne’s review on an Amazon blog (see here).

Now Professor Coyne offers a rebuttal of Behe’s response, which rebuttal I have the privilege of posting.

I can add to Jerry Coyne’s rebuttal just a few words. As it could be expected, Behe’s “response” to Coyne’s critique is typical of Behe’s supercilious style wherein he does not shy away from a self-gratifying delusion regarding his fiasco as an expert witness at the Kitzmiller vs Dover Board of Education trial. Professor Coyne in his brief rebuttal shows the dismal failure of Behe as the author both of his new book and of his “response” to critics.

Read Jerry Coyne’s rebuttal at Talk Reason.

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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