How to Engage in Argumentum ad Gannitum

Today I coin a new Latin phrase in honor of our frequent interlocutor daveS.  Here it is:  Argumentum ad Gannitum – the argument from whining.  (“Gannitum” being Latin for “whining”). The argument from whining takes this form: Person A makes an argument supported by logic and evidence that he believes compels a conclusion. Person B, […]

Mystery: Extinct birds as well adapted for flight as surviving modern ones

But they aren’t the ancestors of the modern ones. They died out, but why? From ScienceDaily: “We know that birds in the early Cretaceous, about 115 to 130 million years ago, were capable of flight but probably not as well adapted for it as modern birds,” said Atterholt, who is now an assistant professor and […]

Physicists: New approach to antimatter offers promising results

According to the Standard Model of our universe, beginning with the Big Bang, there is no difference between matter and antimatter (although they annihilate each other on contact). Why then do we see all matter, no antimatter? A group of physicists decided to test a new theory: From ScienceDaily: About ten picoseconds after the Big […]

Plants have developed complex strategies to get ants to help them

From ScienceDaily: A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences breaks down the genetic history of 1,700 species of ants and 10,000 plant genera, and the researchers found that the long history of ant and plant co-evolution started with ants foraging on plants and plants later responding by evolving ant-friendly traits. […]

BBC: Chimpanzees show empathy and altruism just like humans

The BBC has also thought that chimpanzees were entering the Stone Age. And now: Eminent anthropologist Frans de Waal explains that politicians have a lot to learn from how chimpanzees show empathy. “How chimpanzees reveal the roots of human behaviour” at BBC Reality: Chimpanzees don’t seek humans out the way dogs do. In many ways, […]

Making epigenetics (non-Darwinian evolution) instead of genetics destiny

It had to happen: Someone making epigenetics stand in for the selfish gene, an all-purpose gene-splain: If epigenetic research utilizing these new technologies will successfully shed some light in disease prevention, diagnosis, and therapy, then the research can expand to study epigenetics related to human behavior and moods. Aggression, violence, adultery, sexual preferences, risk-taking, happiness, […]

Logic & first principles: Analogy, Induction and the power of the principle of identity (with application to the genetic code)

One of the commonest objections we meet when we discuss design inferences — especially concerning the genetic code, is that a claim is “just an analogy” (with implied conclusion that analogies are weak or fallacious). This then extends to inductive arguments used. This common error must be corrected and (as will be shown) the principle […]

Neanderthals walked normally, upright, say researchers

The skeleton was of a 32-year-old man: Neanderthals walked upright, had spines straighter than those of modern man, would have been strong and sturdy, and breathed deeply from their bell-, not barrel-shaped ribcages, according to a recently published article written by an international team of scientists. Busting open the myth of the arm-dragging, hunched-over caveman, […]

Three new studies “shake up” study of human migrants to North America

We used to think the picture was pretty simple but not any more: By sequencing and analyzing 15 ancient genomes found throughout the Americas—six of which were older than 10,000 years—these researchers determined that, around 8,000 years ago, the ancestors of Native Americans were still on the move, migrating away from Mesoamerica (what is today […]

Life forms are not machines and neurons are not neural networks

From Mind Matters: Much popular literature leaves the impression that living organisms are machines or even billions of them linked together. For example, at Medium, we learn, Brains receive input from the outside world, their neurons do something to that input, and create an output. That output may be a thought (I want curry for […]

Is the human mind best seen as a halting oracle?

Eric Holloway explains Jonathan Bartlett’s account of the human mind as a halting oracle: In his paper, “Using Turing oracles in cognitive models of problem-solving” Jonathan Bartlett proposes to model the human mind as a halting oracle. A brief explanation: Computer science pioneer Alan Turing (1912–1954) imagined a universal machine that can copy any other […]

No, life cannot have meaning in a random universe. Next question?

In an excerpt from his recent book, Finding Purpose in a Godless World: Why We Care Even If the Universe Doesn’t, a psychiatrist explains how we can have meaning even though we don’t: People assume that our human sense of purpose is dependent on the universe having a purpose, and without such purpose they assume […]

Science-based morality: 400 years of failure?

From a review of James Davison Hunter and Paul Nedelisky’s Science and the Good: The Tragic Quest for the Foundations of Morality Can science tell us how we ought to behave? In Science and the Good, a book that crosses the boundaries of history, philosophy, and psychology, sociologist James Davison Hunter and philosopher Paul Nedelisky […]

Atheist historian combats claim that the Church persecuted classical learning

A historian draws our attention this post from late 2016, a reflection on the survival of classical learning during the Christian era, in response to “Skep,” an energetic atheist blogger: But the usual way that those who are forced to admit that there were, in fact, many medieval natural philosophers studying all kinds of proto-scientific […]

Moshe Averick: When does a “gap” point beyond conventional science?

Rabbi Moshe Averick, author of  The Confused World of Modern Atheism (Mosaica Press, 2016) addresses the “God of the Gaps” – the claim that the intersections between the material and the immaterial in nature are just “gaps” waiting to be filled in (with special reference to the origin of life): The first thing I would bring […]

Historian: Human evolution theorists were attempting to be moral teachers

Post World War II, scientists studying origins, sensed a moral mission to tell the story in order to encourage us to be better people. The close-knit hunter-gatherer clans that represented all humanity co-operated for survival and were chock full of moral lessons for us all. But was it true?: Readers and reviewers lumped Morris, Ardrey […]

Do we really live longer because of “longevity genes”? Researchers cast doubt

It’s now suggested that people likely to live long tend to find each other (assortative mating). How else to explain this?Researchers found that siblings’ and first cousins’ lifespans were well correlated but also: But spouses’ lifespans were correlated, too. That could be easily explained by spouses sharing the same household and lifestyle: eating the same […]

Stress: Scientist to be sentenced for trying to poison labmate

We run this story as a public service. Sometimes the pressure might get to you but it is almost never entirely that person’s fault and this is not the way to go about dealing with it: Graduate student Zijie Wang has pleaded guilty to poisoning a co-worker in the chemistry labs at Queen’s University in […]

Cats played a unique role in the space program

Back in the 1960s, space scientists needed to know if it is true that a cat always lands on its feet: NASA contributed funding to the paper “A Dynamical Explanation of the Falling Cat Phenomenon,” published in the International Journal of Solids and Structures, by Stanford’s T.R. Kane and M.P. Scher. What was so significant […]

Software pioneer: The nature of intelligence forbids general artificial intelligence

This post went viral yesterday at Mind Matters: The 2014 science fiction film Transcendence featured a scientist who uploaded his consciousness into an AI program. Many people talk as though things like that are just around the corner. But industry pros say it isn’t really possible. Why not? François Chollet, author of Keras, a framework […]

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