Tabby’s Star — on the “extraordinary evidence” claim

If one watches the TED talk by Astronomer Tabetha Boyajian, one will notice that she begins with Sagan’s aphorism on “extraordinary” claims. This inadvertently reveals just how significant epistemological concerns are in scientific undertakings. Accordingly, for follow up, I post a corrective: The issue in knowledge is not extraordinary evidence (an assertion that invites selective […]

Warren Allmon on the Argument from Homology

I once debated two evolutionists on the campus of Cornell University. In that debate I raised several fundamental problems with evolutionary theory. The problems that I pointed out fell into two broad categories: process and pattern. In the latter category, I pointed out that the keystone argument for evolution from homology had badly failed. Unfortunately, that failure […]

Redefining life to make the search for the origin of life easier?

From Suzan Mazur at HuffPost: Reunited following their collaborative funding of a $3 million investigation to determine how the religious community would respond to the discovery of life in outer space—-NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) and John Templeton Foundation, directly and through Templeton-funded entities: Templeton World Charity Foundation and ELSI Origins Network, are principal supporters of […]

At Technology Review: There is no clear path to giving computers the power to think

From tech reporter Brian Bergstein at Technology Review: Is it possible to give machines the power to think, as John McCarthy, Marvin Minsky, and other originators of AI intended 60 years ago? Doing that, Levesque explains, would require imbuing computers with common sense and the ability to flexibly make use of background knowledge about the […]

Researchers: Cross-species gene regulation observed for the first time

From ScienceDaily: Dodder, a parasitic plant that causes major damage to crops in the US and worldwide every year, can silence the expression of genes in the host plants from which it obtains water and nutrients. This cross-species gene regulation, which includes genes that contribute to the host plant’s defense against parasites, has never before […]

The futility of relativism, subjectivism and emotivism as ethical stances

The exchanges over ethics have continued to brew up in UD’s comment threads. Accordingly, it is appropriate to note an excerpt from a chapter summary for what seems to be a very level-headed — and so quite unfashionable — textbook: >>Excerpted chapter summary, on Subjectivism, Relativism, and Emotivism, in Doing Ethics 3rd Edn, by Lewis […]

Trio of dead stars upholds Einstein’s gravity

From Emily Conover at ScienceNews: Observations of a trio of dead stars have confirmed that a foundation of Einstein’s gravitational theory holds even for ultradense objects with strong gravitational fields. The complex orbital dance of the three former stars conforms to a rule known as the strong equivalence principle, researchers reported January 10 at a […]

New hypothesis as to why flowering plants predominate

From ScienceDaily: Scientists have found an explanation for how flowering plants became dominant so rapidly in ecosystems across the world — a problem that Charles Darwin called an ‘abominable mystery’. In a study publishing on January 11 in the open access journal PLOS Biology, Kevin Simonin and Adam Roddy, from San Francisco State University and […]

From Slate: The end of truth, and science, is NOT in sight

From Daniel Engber at Slate: Ten years ago last fall, Washington Post science writer Shankar Vedantam published an alarming scoop: The truth was useless. … This supposed scientific fact jibed with an idea then in circulation. In those days of phantom Iraqi nukes, anti-vaxxer propaganda, and climate change denialism, reality itself appeared to be in […]

“Alien Megastructure Is Not The Cause Of The Dimming Of Tabby’s Star ” (Design Inference filter in action; Sci Fi Fans disappointed)

According to SciTech Daily in a January 3, 2018 article, Tabby’s star, aka KIC 8462852, has had a mysterious brightening and dimming cycle.  (Such a cycle, of course raises the interesting thought of the erection of a Dyson Sphere or a similar megastructure.) As the article reports: >>A team of more than 200 researchers, including […]

FYI: Blackstone on the laws of our morally governed nature

Sometimes, a classic reference provides food for thought: >>Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-1769) Sir William Blackstone INTRODUCTION, SECTION 2 Of the Nature of Laws in General Law, in its most general and comprehensive sense, signifies a rule of action; and is applied indiscriminately to all kinds of action, whether animate or inanimate, rational […]

Intellectual termite watch: Numbers are “social constructs”

From Toni Airaksinen at Campus Reform: In the postmodern tradition, Gillborn and his team also argue that racism can be reinforced through numbers because they are social constructs. “Numbers are social constructs and likely to embody the dominant (racist) assumptions that shape contemporary society,” they write. As a consequence, they assert that “in many cases, […]

Lack of a Grand Unified Theory (GUT) leaves physicists frustrated

From The Economist: Persistence in the face of adversity is a virtue, of course. And, as all this effort shows, physicists have been nothing if not persistent. Yet it is an uncomfortable fact that the relentless pursuit of ever bigger and better experiments in their field is driven as much by belief as by evidence. […]

Could a gorilla mom consciously protect her baby?

From Barbara J. King at NPR: The 26-year-old female, named Pasika, has been traveling alone with her baby for more than seven months in Rwanda’s Virunga mountains, ever since her social group fell apart at the death of its silverback leader. Her infant, Mashami, is now one year old. The post described Pasika’s behavior as […]

How litigation undermines the ability of science media to provide honest results

From skeptical science journalist Alex Berezow at American Council on Science and Health: Consider Mark Jacobson, the climate scientist who is suing a prestigious journal for $10 million because it hurt his feelings. There is good reason to believe that the lawsuit will be dismissed, but not before lawyers have collected a nice fee for […]

Spiders and ants independently developed baskets for carrying sand

From Nature: Desert spiders are master engineers A spider living in the Sahara Desert excavates its burrow by hauling out bundles of sand fastened with silken cords, while another carries sand balls in a ‘basket’ of its own bristles. … A similar basket evolved independently in desert ants, the authors note.More. See also: Evolution appears […]

“Confounding”: Moths and butterflies predate flowering plants by millions of years

From ScienceDaily: They predate the Createous period, moths and butterflies existed earlier than the Cretaceous period, which began 145 million years ago. A team of scientists report on new evidence that primitive moths and butterflies existed during the Jurassic period, approximately 50 million years earlier than the first flowering plants, shedding new light on one […]

Evolution News: Don’t be fooled by protein design claim

From Andrew Jones at Evolution News & Science Today,: After many thousands of man-hours of research, and zillions of CPU-hours on borrowed computers, biochemist David Baker of the University of Washington claims we have basically nailed it. “There are subtleties going on in naturally occurring proteins that we still don’t understand,” Dr. Baker said. “But […]

Higher ed is drowning and we weren’t the only people to notice

From sociologist Christian Smith at Chronicle Review: BS is undergraduate “core” curricula that are actually not core course systems but loose sets of distribution requirements, representing uneasy truces between turf-protecting divisions and departments intent on keeping their classes full, which students typically then come to view as impositions to “get out of the way.” BS […]

How people who were not taught math can be gulled into believing implausible claims

From Thomas P. Sheahen at American Thinker: We all learned in elementary school that “you can’t divide by zero.” But what happens when you divide by a number very close to zero, a small fraction? The quotient shoots way up to a very large value. … There are several indices being cited these days that […]

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