Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Is peer review a “sacred cow”?

Ready “to be slaughtered”? Asks David Gorski at Science-based Medicine: It seems to me that, at the very minimum, the era of asking scientists for suggestions for peer reviewers for their own manuscripts must end. The reasons why many (but by no means all) journals have done so for so many years are quite understandable but no longer defensible in the wake of these damaging and large scale incidents of self-peer review fraud. This practice must stop, even at the price of more work for already harried editors. One technological solution that might help would be a database of peer reviewers, each with his or her relevant field of expertise listed, as well as collaborators and those with whom they’ve Read More ›

Fahrenheit 451 denials of service

For reader info, in case it happens when you try to access Uncommon Descent or a  page here: The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has approved the use of HTTP status code 451. The code alerts readers when a page has been blocked for legal reasons or censored. The code number was inspired by Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury’s novel about censorship. From Fast Company: Code 451 is a big step for transparency, but since it’s optional, it probably won’t be a final solution. As Bray tells The Verge, “It is imaginable that certain legal authorities may wish to avoid transparency, and not only forbid access to certain resources, but also disclosure that the restriction exists.” Others will righteously flaunt the Read More ›

Should scientists trust untestable theories?

The answer to that question will decide what science is. And scientists are asking it now. From Quanta: String theory, the multiverse and other ideas of modern physics are potentially untestable. At a historic meeting in Munich, scientists and philosophers asked: should we trust them anyway? The crisis, as Ellis and Silk tell it, is the wildly speculative nature of modern physics theories, which they say reflects a dangerous departure from the scientific method. Many of today’s theorists — chief among them the proponents of string theory and the multiverse hypothesis — appear convinced of their ideas on the grounds that they are beautiful or logically compelling, despite the impossibility of testing them. Ellis and Silk accused these theorists of Read More ›

Animals demand respect for their intelligence!

They are getting a hearing at Evolution News & Views: There is no Darwinian tree of intelligence, rather we need to study when and how it might be displayed in a given life form: Reptiles lack certain brain structures found in mammals, but like birds they sometimes use the ones they have for purposes that apparently display intelligence: Crocodilians (alligators and crocodiles) are reported to use sticks as decoys, play, and work in teams. Tortoises may well be smarter than once believed, though here we rely mainly on anecdotes, not formal studies, for now. Even fish have shown signs of what seems like intelligence. We are told that pairs of rabbitfishes “cooperate and support each other while feeding”: While such Read More ›

Mutations Degrade Inherited Intelligence

The remarkable “powers” of evolution are now shown to degrade (aka “mutate”) the human genes essential to intelligence.

Remarkably, they found that some of the same genes that influence human intelligence in healthy people were also the same genes that cause impaired cognitive ability and epilepsy when mutated, networks which they called M1 and M3.

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Is Mark Hauser back? Betrayals helped humans spread?

Marc Hauser? See Evilicious. (They are still trying to rehabilitate him after the “monkeys’ intelligence” debacle.) Maybe not. From ScienceDaily: New research suggests that betrayals of trust were the missing link in understanding the rapid spread of our own species around the world. Moral disputes motivated by broken trust and a sense of betrayal became more frequent and motivated early humans to put distance between them and their rivals. … She suggests that as commitments to others became more essential to survival, and human groups ever more motivated to identify and punish those who cheat, the ‘dark’ side of human nature also developed. Moral disputes motivated by broken trust and a sense of betrayal became more frequent and motivated early humans Read More ›

Elite scientists hold back progress?

Probably. A friend writes to mention a report on a study claiming to show that when an elite scientist dies in an academic subfield, new ideas and innovations follow: Here’s the pattern: After the unexpected death of a rock-star scientist, their frequent collaborators — the junior researchers who authored papers with them — suddenly see a drop in publication. At the same time, there is a marked increase in published work by other newcomers to the field Graph offered. All this suggest there’s a “goliath’s shadow” effect. People are either prevented from or afraid of challenging a leading thinker in a field. That or scientific subfields are like grown-up versions of high school cafeteria tables. New people just can’t sit there until the Read More ›

Get Rid of Evolution With This One Weird Trick

People have been begging me to tell them about this one weird trick to get rid of evolution. But up until now I have been hesitant. It’s almost too easy. Plus, getting rid of evolution would mean not having evolutionists around anymore, and what fun would that be? But now, for a limited time, you too can get rid of evolution with  read more

In Science’s 2015 top stories: Non-reproducibility

Here’s No. 3: A surprising number of psychology studies can’t be reproduced A huge, collaborative research project attempted to recreate 100 studies that were recently published in major psychology journals, and it found that only 39 of those studies’ results could be replicated. That could mean that the studies were wrong in the first place, but researchers say that the findings tell more about the difficulty of designing a reproducible study than the accuracy of the studies themselves. Studies need to be reproducible so that scientists can confirm their effects. That’s why scientists have generally pushed toward reproducing studies — and not just in psychology. In part, that’s to catch scientific fraud, but it’s also simply to make scientific findings Read More ›

The Dover case, John West, and intelligent design

Recently, Evolution News & Views has been discussing the decade-old Dover case that, in my view, cleared the decks for serious discussions about Darwinism. No surprise, lots more people express doubts, now that the failing American school system is no longer  an issue. West, a director at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (ID Central), writes, It was during the bleak months following Dover that I made one of the biggest decisions of my professional life. Rather than cut and run, I decided to risk everything. Convinced of the critical importance of the intelligent design debate, I gave up my tenured position as a university professor to devote my full energies to Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Read More ›

Blocking “junk” DNA can prevent stroke damage

From ScienceDaily: Blocking a type of RNA produced by what used to be called ‘junk DNA’ can prevent a significant portion of the neural destruction that follows a stroke, a new study in rats demonstrates. … The research also links two mysteries: Why does the majority of damage follow the restoration of blood supply? And what is the role of the vast majority of the human genome, which was once considered junk because it does not pattern for the RNA that makes proteins? Note the expression: “once considered” junk. Someone tell science writer Carl Zimmer. And junk DNA spear carrier Dan Graur (“If ENCODE [little “junk DNA” found] is right, then Evolution is wrong.”). No, wait… Anyway, “Stroke influences the Read More ›

Stone Age dentistry, 14 kya

We were recently discussing an archaeology find, King Hezekiah of Judah’s seal imprint (first ever for a seal impression of an Israelite or Judean king in a scientific archaeological excavation). Here are top tens for 2015 from Mashable, including Investigation with scanning electron microscopy on a 14,000-year-old molar revealed the oldest known dentistry, as the infected tooth was partially cleaned with flint tools. From Discover: “It predates any undisputed evidence of dental and cranial surgery, currently represented by dental drillings and cranial trephinations dating back to the Mesolithic-Neolithic period, about 9,000-7,000 years ago, “ Benazzi said. We await news re Stone Age anaesthetics, we really do. Some early dentistry, pictured above, used beeswax for fillings. See also: The search for Read More ›

“Evolution of evolvability”… Huh?

Further to Is “evolution” a person? Can it “learn”? (Well, that would sure explain “apparently intelligent designs.” If evolution can “learn,” it is a consciousness of some kind.) But Darwin boffins were making the claim. Anway, philospher and photographer Laszlo Bencze comments on their phrase, in the title above: “The evolution of evolvability” is the single most striking phrase in the article that Denyse excerpts. Like wow. With a phrase like that you have just answered all conceivable doubts about Darwinism. It’s the master key which opens every dank cell in Darwin’s dungeon. It rolls off the tongue like a line from a Shakespeare sonnet. It’s got assonance. It’s a beautiful thing. Maybe some crabby old ID critics will damn Read More ›

Archaeology: Hezekiah’s seal impression found in Jerusalem

Hezekiah (741–686 BC) , king of Judah, was known for reform and strengthening national defenses. From ScienceDaily: The impression bears an inscription in ancient Hebrew script: “Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah,” and a two-winged sun, with wings turned downward, flanked by two ankh symbols symbolizing life. … Dr. Eilat Mazar said: “Although seal impressions bearing King Hezekiah’s name have already been known from the antiquities market since the middle of the 1990s, some with a winged scarab (dung beetle) symbol and others with a winged sun, this is the first time that a seal impression of an Israelite or Judean king has ever come to light in a scientific archaeological excavation.”More. There’s probably a lot of Read More ›

The ‘Random Genetic Drift’ Fallacy

I finished reading Provine’s last book a few weeks ago, and have meant to post something about it ever since.

In his book, The ‘Random Genetic Drift’ Fallacy, Provine hammers his main thesis over and over: that is, that genetic changes in small populations occur not because of “random genetic drift,” but because of “inbreeding.”

The entire book is meant to show that the entirety of population genetics is based on a basic misunderstanding by Sewell Wright of what was happening in populations, a misunderstanding that allowed R.A. Fisher’s analysis to prevail, a model of alleles mutating around a specific gene location, or locus, which, IIRC, he called F.
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