Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

For 2016: Renew that hit on the Big Bang

Further to Sean Carroll and the Time with Two Heads, a friend writes to ask about a quantum equation that rolled through earlier this year, that predicts the universe has no beginning: The universe may have existed forever, according to a new model that applies quantum correction terms to complement Einstein’s theory of general relativity. The model may also account for dark matter and dark energy, resolving multiple problems at once. Although the Big Bang singularity arises directly and unavoidably from the mathematics of general relativity, some scientists see it as problematic because the math can explain only what happened immediately after—not at or before—the singularity. “The Big Bang singularity is the most serious problem of general relativity because the Read More ›

Do the Australians know what they’re getting, with Nick Matzke?

Enforcement of an orthodoxy engulfed by challenges, from what we know. Further to the book burner moving to Australian National U, from John West at Evolution News & Views we learn: Former National Center for Science Education activist Nick Matzke has just published an utterly inane article in Science about academic freedom bills. In the article, he constructs a “phylogenetic tree” to show that various academic freedom bills are related to one another. If the intention was to show that Discovery Institute has supported academic freedom legislation in various states, or that many of those bills have similar language, Matzke didn’t need to construct a phylogenetic tree. He simply could have followed the reporting here at Evolution News. If I Read More ›

Vid: Hoping to find ancient life remains on Mars

I ran across a vid of a proposal developed by Martin Marietta to explore Mars, towards settlement (and terraforming?): [youtube tcTZvNLL0-w] What I find highly interesting is the motivations given. In addition to the Mars colonisation idea, there seems to be hope that finding “independent” life on Mars would show life must be common in the universe. Of course, we will recall the 1990’s dust up over Nasa’s announcement of life on a meteorite held to have come from Mars. (Cf Wiki here.) Which, brings to mind Astronomer and Old Earth Creationist Hugh Ross’ thought that impacts on Earth would spread life-bearing rocks far and wide across the solar system. *His initial response to the Nasa announcement is here.) But, Read More ›

Not a Big Bang of turtles TOO?

Okay, so we were just talking about a Big Bang of birds. Some speak of a Big Bang of mammals (“These new findings call for a re-evaluation of the evolutionary story of placental mammals,” says Anne Yoder, an evolutionary biologist at Duke University, who wasn’t involved in the work.”) and flowers (“Turns out, these bloomers went through an evolutionary “Big Bang” of sorts some 130 million years ago, a brief era of explosive floral diversification at a time when dinosaurs walked the Earth.”) So, we looked for a Big Bang of turtles, but … naw, not turtles. But wait! Someone suggested, no one would believe that about turtles, so they wouldn’t have used the phrase. Just for luck, try “rapid Read More ›

The Founding Feathers?

From Discovery.com: All Birds Descend from One Feathered Founder … The ancestry of every bird alive today can be traced back to a single “Founding Feathered Father” that lived in South America 95 million years ago, according to a new study. The common ancestor of living birds, described in the journal Science Advances, likely lived much later than previously estimated. Prior reports suggested that the founding bird lived up to 170 million years ago during the Jurassic Period. Dinosaurs (that didn’t evolve into birds) were still prevalent in South America 95 million years ago, yet the Founding Feathered Father would have been a standout. So that’s less time for bird evolution? Birds Evolved In ‘Big Bang,’ New Family Tree Reveals Read More ›

Modern birds radiated before dinosaur extinction?

One would think so, but this from : “With very few exceptions, fossils of modern birds have been found only after the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) extinction,” said Claramunt. “This has led some researchers to suggest that modern birds didn’t start to diversify until after this event, when major competitors were gone. But our new work, which agrees with previous DNA-based studies, suggests that birds began to radiate before this massive extinction.” Perhaps that proved a hedge against extinction? After the K-Pg extinction, birds used two routes to cover the globe: first, to North America across a Paleogene Central American land bridge and then to the Old World; and second, to Australia and New Zealand across Antarctica, which was relatively warm at Read More ›

But is this fair to Feynman?

From Simon Oxenham at BigThink: How to Use the Feynman Technique to Identify Pseudoscience Last week a new study made headlines worldwide by bluntly demonstrating the human capacity to be misled by “pseudo-profound bullshit” from the likes of Deepak Chopra, infamous for making profound sounding yet entirely meaningless statements by abusing scientific language. The researchers correlate believing pseudo-profundities will all kinds of things Clever People Aren’t Supposed to Like, and one suspects the paper wouldn’t survive replication. So why is this a job for Feynman? This is all well and good, but how are we supposed to know that we are being misled when we read a quote about quantum theory from someone like Chopra, if we don’t know the Read More ›

Sean Carroll and the Time with Two Heads

Another stab at: What came before the Big Bang? = We  all hates the Big Bang. From Harper’s: Working with Alan Guth, a pioneering cosmologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carroll has developed a not-yet-published theory called Two-Headed Time. In this model of the universe, time has existed forever. But unlike the static cosmos imagined by Aristotle and Newton and Einstein, this universe changes as the eons go by. The evolution of the cosmos is symmetric in time, such that the behavior of the universe before the Big Bang is nearly a mirror image of its behavior after. Until 14 billion years ago, the universe was contracting. It reached a minimum size at the Big Bang (which we call Read More ›

The media today are actually Warsaw 1982

In an article in National Catholic Reporter on academic freedom, journalist Menachem Wecker tells us, Contrary to popular belief, academic freedom isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card. Instead, it guarantees that professors can only be dismissed for cause, ascertained by a hearing of their peers. Okay, but in these times, “cause” doesn’t mean very much, does it? Sure enough, So if a biology professor “goes off the deep end” and tells students there’s no such thing as evolution, or genes don’t exist, that professor will go before a committee, which could decide that behavior is unprofessional, Reichman said. But if a biologist goes in a new research direction that threatens “some of the old truisms of the field,” that professor must be Read More ›

The latest! Chitchat “evolved” Did you know?

This got funded: From Sciencedaily: Chitchat, small talk could serve an evolutionary need to bond with others Well yes, but what is the word “evolutionary” doing in this sentence? A real science comes bolstered with specifics, not speculations. Many of us expect that our early ancestors gossiped plenty. But it is precisely what has not evolved that causes us to think so. Anyway, Princeton University researchers report in the journal Animal Behaviour that social primates use vocalizations far more selectively than scientists previously thought. They found that ringtailed lemurs (Lemur catta) living in groups primarily call and respond to the individuals with which they have close relationships. While grooming is a common social-bonding experience for lemurs and other primates, the Read More ›

Rob Sheldon on the “unknowability” problem

Further to Robert Marks on the math paradox that challenges physics because it may be unanswerable, Rob Sheldon writes to say, Without reading the full paper, it sounds like a familiar problem in many-body QM, how do you add up all the distant interactions in an infinite crystal to find the energy of the system at a single point? Sometimes the interactions fade away, and the series converges. Sometimes the interactions stubbornly refuse to fade, and the series diverges. This paper is saying “there is no a-priori way to know if you have a convergent or divergent series.” I think for mathematicians, this is a Thales moment, when they get to tell the physicists that math really does have application Read More ›

New study: Dogs domesticated 33 000 years ago

From Discovery News: All dogs alive today can trace at least some of their ancestry back to dogs that were domesticated 33,000 years ago in southern East Asia, suggests one of the most extensive ever investigations of canine DNA. In addition to pinpointing the place and time for the earliest dog domestication, the new study, published in the journal Cell Research, found that the first domesticated dogs descended from grey wolves that likely came from China. The research, conducted by an international team, further determined that dogs began to migrate out of East Asia and towards the Middle East and Africa 15,000 years ago. They then reached Europe in large numbers approximately 10,000 years ago. It appears that the dogs Read More ›

Darwin’s man PZ Myers has found a hobby

Readers may never have heard of Pat Condell, a “godless” Irish comedian who is, shall we say, not fond of Islamic terror, but remains capitated. Well, our old friend PZ Myers apparently discovered Condell and feels he needs to “go throw up in the corner” as a result. This is the first time I (O’Leary for News) have read something Myers’ wrote in a while that wasn’t full of profanity. And it is two sentences long! We didn’t know Myers owned the brand on atheism. Most theists don’t feel they need to get personal about what every theist political opponent (or villain or crackpot) in the world chooses to do, but then most theists don’t claim to own the brand Read More ›

Does ID Rest on Metaphysical Claims About Dualism?

RDFish seems to think so.  I summarize his argument as follows: The ID explanatory filter works as follows: (a)  The explanatory filter first asks whether the phenomenon is contingent.  If it is not, then it is probably best explained as the result of a natural regularity. (b)  If the phenomenon is contingent, the filter asks whether it is complex and specified.  If it is neither complex nor specified, then chance is the most viable explanation.  While there may be false negatives, there can be no reliable design inference. (c)  But if the phenomenon is contingent, complex and specified, then an abductive inference to design is warranted. Therefore, under the explanatory filter design is inferred only after law and chance have Read More ›

Robert Marks on the math paradox challenging physics

Yesterday we noted new findings that a math paradox might make physics problems unanswerable be unanswerable (and thus maybe turn the physics problems into paradoxes too). Robert Marks II, computer science prof at Baylor U and editor-in-chief of Bio-Complexity , offers some thoughts: Anything algorithmic can be done by a computer. Give me a recipe for doing something, and I can whip it up in the kitchen. There are things which are not algorithmic the most celebrated of which is Turing’s halting problem: there exists no algorithm able tell whether or not a computer program runs forever or halts. (The halting algorithm must work for any and all computer programs.) But a computer program will halt or won’t halt. But Read More ›