Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Can a Non-Expert Challenge a “Scientific” Consensus?

Many of us in the ID community are repeatedly challenged with the assertion that those without “credentials” in evolutionary biology are, essentially by definition, disqualified from questioning Darwinian orthodoxy. It is true that if a mathematician claims to have a proof of a new theorem in computational number theory, the challenger should be able to come up with a mathematically rigorous refutation, and this would require much expertise in the domain of CNT. However, as David Berlinski has pointed out, Darwinian “science” does not represent rigorous science in our usual understanding of the term — it is a “room filled with smoke.” It makes claims about the infinitely creative powers of random variation and natural selection, with no rigorous proof, Read More ›

Are microbes helping shape the weather?

Lots of things are up in the air these days, … Recent research published in PNAS suggests that the diversity of microbial life in the air is on par with the soil, at least in urban areas, yet the air remains vastly understudied in comparison. “Just seven or ten years ago we didn’t realize bacteria existed in clouds,” said Anne-Marie Delort, professor of microbiology and organic chemistry at Université Blaise Pascal in France. Now researchers know microbes act as a surface for the condensation of water vapor in the atmosphere, thus forming clouds. Recent research publish in Science shows microbes also play the same role during snowflake formation and other types of precipitation. The next step, Delort said, is to Read More ›

DarwinLeaks: New blog aims to leak Darwin stories, no jail time anticipated

With a hat tip, one supposes, to Wiki Leaker Julian Assange, a friend alerts me to DarwinLeaks hoping it will “do the same to Darwin and disciples from a history of science point of view.” The blog is in Portuguese, but can be translated at the site. It certainly looked interesting; when I checked in, the question was why the correspondence between Darwin and Mivart, the well-known anatomist with whom Darwin fell out, has never been released to the Internet. There is some thought that it may falsify some current explanations for the breach between the two men. Well, there is only one way to find out about that … That said, Darwinism thrives on its cultural power. It wouldn’t Read More ›

Coffee!: Things can’t just be weird, can they? I mean …

From Live Journal via Mark Shea, originally at Why Evolution is True (Jerry Coyne’s site), we have the Brazilian Treehopper, also this model … And if you think that’s weird, see these. The funny part is the proposed Darwinian explanation: A first guess is that it’s a sexually-selected trait, but those are often limited to males, and these creatures (and the ones below) show the ornaments in both sexes. Kemp hypothesizes—and this seems quite reasonable—that “the hollow globes, like the remarkable excrescences exhibited by other treehoppers, probably deter predators.” It would be hard to grab, much less chow down on, a beast with all those spines and excrescences. Note, though, that the ornament sports many bristles. If these are sensory Read More ›

Coffee!: Even-handed, sure – provided you have only one hand

A friend writes to note, “Evolution and its rivals” – a special issue of the philosophy journal Synthese focused on the creationism/evolution controversy – was just published. Fortuitously, as part of a special promotion on the part of the journal’s publisher, access to Synthese is free until 31 December 2010. When you get there, you will find the following bias-free introduction to the intelligent design controversy: Coedited by Glenn Branch and James H. Fetzer, “Evolution and its rivals” [Synthese 178(2)] contains Glenn Branch’s introduction; Robert T. Pennock’s “Can’t philosophers tell the difference between science and religion?: Demarcation revisited”; John S. Wilkins’s “Are creationists rational?”; Kelly C. Smith’s “Foiling the Black Knight”; Wesley Elsberry and Jeffrey Shallit’s “Information theory, evolutionary computation, and Read More ›

Uncloaking The Factless Guesswork Of Evolution’s Intron-Splicing Magic

Shattered assumptions, broken rules and overturned beliefs.  The science media seems eager these days to emphasize science’s capacity to shift paradigms.  And it was such a handful of descriptives that was used to convey the implications of a new study that redefines our view of genome architecture (1).  At the heart of such excitement lay a tunicate organism called Oikopleura dioica that carries in its genetic armory “several peculiarities” (1).  Weighing in with its 70 million base pairs of DNA Oikopleura is today venerated as the animal with the smallest known genome (1).  But what stands out for biologists who have dedicated years to unpacking Oikopleura’s treasure box genome is the ‘odd ball’ physical location of many of its genes (1).  The Scientist’s Megan Scudellari remarked that “Oikopleura’s genes appear to have been shuffled like a deck of cards” (1).

At the apex of this presumed shuffling is that all-elusive but much loved patch-all process called evolution.  “UV rays and other mutagens” that bombard Oikopleura as it ekes out its existence just below the ocean surface are the suggested deck dealers of this particular shuffle (1).  But apart from this rather misty association between cause and effect, there is precious little in the evolutionary inferences of this study to satisfy an appetite for robust scientific argumentation. Read More ›

Professor Jerry Coyne on why Intelligent Design should be taught in public schools

For anyone who might have choked on their coffee while reading that headline, let me state up-front that Professor Coyne has not undergone an overnight conversion. Instead, what he has done is give the Intelligent Design movement a perfect Christmas gift. Santa Claus himself couldn’t have picked a better one. And here it is: an airtight legal argument for allowing Intelligent Design to be taught in public schools.

But wait, there’s more! A second present from Professor Coyne! An open admission that public schools should be teaching our kids that they are machines. Thank you, Professor Coyne!
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The selfish gene is NOT to blame for being selfish …

Just wanted to get that straight. In the Wall Street Journal, physicist Lawrence Krauss, director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University, “The Lies of Science Writing” (December 23, 2010) explains, Writing about science poses a fundamental problem right at the outset: You have to lie. I don’t mean lie in the sense of intentionally misleading people. I mean that because math is the language of science, scientists who want to translate their work into popular parlance have to use verbal or pictorial metaphors that are necessarily inexact. Of course, it works the other way around too. Efforts to reduce complex matters like elder care to equations will end in frustration for all concerned. Consider another famous scientific metaphor, Read More ›

The Miracle of Ribosome Assembly Evolution

New research is uncovering the details of how the cell’s protein factory—the ribosome—is constructed. The ribosome translates messenger RNA molecules—edited copies of DNA protein-coding genes—into a string of amino acids, according to the genetic code. The ribosome has two major components (one smaller and one larger), each made up of both RNA and protein molecules, and is constructed via a complex sequence of events.  Read more

Everyone hates the blogosphere and loves peer review, right, but …

In Open Data Genomics, paleoanthropologist John Hawks offers I’ve often found that the best reviews of my work come from blogs and readers, not from peer review itself. With a project like this, the most critical readings will come from the most interested community, which may be a broader public than the scientific community. Yes, that is precisely what the blogosphere has done. Traditional media told us what our betters thought was news. Which soon meant, if they didn’t think it was news, we shouldn’t. Now anyone can start reporting and commenting. Suddenly, the news is not what it used to be. For one thing, it’s often real news. With government plans to control the Internet, this interlude may soon Read More ›

The Bacterial Flagellum – Truly An Engineering Marvel!

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture by microbiologist Phillip Aldridge, of the University of Newcastle. The topic of his lecture was “The Regulation of Flagellar Assembly”. Being an ID proponent, I had a natural interest in what Aldridge was going to say, and I had been looking forward to the event for some time. I was already familiar to a degree with several of the key mechanisms and regulation of flagellar biosynthesis. Nonetheless, the lecture succeeded in re-kindling my passion for biology, and inspired me to do some in-depth research on my own with regards the workings of this engineering marvel.

I must confess that I was blown away. If one thought that the functional-specificity of arrangement with respect to the flagellum’s key components may well provide adequate grounds for a design inference, the mechanisms of flagellar construction take this intuition to a whole new level. So mesmerized I was by the motor’s intrinsic beauty and elegance, that I decided to provide a sketch overview of this amazing process for the benefit of readers of this blog. Of course, there are variations in the flagellum’s overall construct from species to species. The archetypical flagellum, however, is probably that of the closely related species, Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica, and Salmonella typhimurium. It is this that I want to primarily focus on.

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A word about Uncommon Descent…

 Merry Christmas and Season’s Greetings! May you and all your friends be cheerful. Posting at Uncommon Descent is a pleasure for all of us authors, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank our generous donors. Recent posts explain why we put so many hours into the site: Evidence and honest discussion of evidence. But now, suppose I told you that a theory about how life forms change over time has been known since the 1960s to be mathematically impossible (assuming evidence-based circumstances). Yet courts order it to be taught to all children uncritically in tax-supported schools. Anyone who raises doubts, public or private, is not only demonized or silenced in the academy but trashed by a Read More ›

How much of the body plans of organisms can be explained by laws of form, not Darwinism or design?

Quite a bit, say Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini, in What Darwin Got Wrong. They offer an interesting example, the ‘fourth dimension’ of living systems, The body masses of living organisms vary between 10^-13 grams (bacteria) to 10^8 grams (whales), that is, by 21 orders of magnitude. It’s interesting to see how other physico-chemical and biological properties and processes, and their ratios, scale with mass. How, for instance, surfaces and internal rates of transport, rates of cellular metabolism, whole organism metabolic rate, heartbeat, blood circulation, time and overall lifespan scale with mass. Thee are, of course, all three-dimensional systems, so it seems astounding that all the scaling factors, encompassing microorganisms, plants and animals, are multiples of a quarter, not a Read More ›

New Axe paper at BIO-Complexity: The Limits of Complex Adaptation

Available here. Axe’s analysis was motivated in part by the recent flurry of papers dealing with the problem of the waiting time for multiple independent mutations. Here is Doug’s abstract: To explain life’s current level of complexity, we must first explain genetic innovation. Recognition of this fact has generated interest in the evolutionary feasibility of complex adaptations–adaptations requiring multiple mutations, with all intermediates being non-adaptive. Intuitively, one expects the waiting time for arrival and fixation of these adaptations to have exponential dependence on d, the number of specific base changes they require. Counter to this expectation, Lynch and Abegg have recently concluded that in the case of selectively neutral intermediates, the waiting time becomes independent of d as d becomes Read More ›