Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Does intelligence depend on a specific type of brain? No.

From Evolution News & Views: Are There Patterns in Invertebrate Brains and Intelligence? Reptiles and fish sometimes show signs of intelligence despite having quite different brains from mammals. But, being exothermic, they don’t do much of anything very often. For example, turtles may rescue each other, but can also spend months in a state of icy torpor with little adverse effect. At one time, it was assumed that the intelligence to rescue would not co-exist with lengthy inertia (the reptilian or triune brain hypothesis). Actually, the two qualities can co-exist, though they wouldn’t be simultaneous. Invertebrate just means “not a vertebrate,” so there is no single type of invertebrate brain: Invertebrates have immensely diverse nervous structures and body plans, revealing Read More ›

The origin of abiotic species: Seven epic fails

A team of researchers led by Professor Sijbren Otto of the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands, has announced that it has observed not only self-replication, but also mutants and even new “species,” in a bunch of molecules in the lab. Does this research show how life might have arisen spontaneously, or is it nothing more than a case of intelligent design by clever chemists? In today’s post, I’m going to argue that the claims made by Professor Otto and his team are flawed, on no less than seven counts. But before I examine their press release and their paper in Nature Chemistry, I’d like to discuss a Science LinX video that was posted on Youtube last year (March 17, Read More ›

Sheldon: A public goods approach to Darwinism leads to design

Someone drew attention to Smithsonian paleobiologist Douglas H. Erwin‘s recent article (April 20145), offering a “public goods” approach to major evolutionary innovations: Here’s the abstract: The history of life is marked by a small number of major transitions, whether viewed from a genetic, ecological, or geological perspective. Specialists from various disciplines have focused on the packaging of information to generate new evolutionary individuals, on the expansion of ecological opportunity, or the abiotic drivers of environmental change to which organisms respond as the major drivers of these episodes. But the critical issue for understanding these major evolutionary transitions (METs) lies in the interactions between environmental, ecologic, and genetic change. Here, I propose that public goods may serve as one currency of Read More ›

Bayes’ supercool theorem promotes “superstition”?

John Horgan at Scientific American thinks so: “Why does a mathematical concept generate this strange enthusiasm in its students? What is the so-called Bayesian Revolution now sweeping through the sciences, which claims to subsume even the experimental method itself as a special case? What is the secret that the adherents of Bayes know? What is the light that they have seen? Soon you will know. Soon you will be one of us.” Yudkowsky is kidding. Or is he? Given all this hoopla, I’ve tried to get to the bottom of Bayes, once and for all. Horgan offers helpful suggestions. Of course, Bayesianism could amount to nothing more than a sophisticate’s way of avoiding common sense reasoning in order to make Read More ›

New book: Does Darwinism explain higher taxa?

A new book, The Origin of Higher Taxa by T. S. Kemp, asks, Does Darwinian evolution acting over a sufficiently long period of time really offer a complete explanation, or are unusual genetic events and particular environmental and ecological circumstances also involved? With The Origin of Higher Taxa, Tom Kemp sifts through the layers of paleobiological, genetic, and ecological evidence on a quest to answer this essential, game-changing question of biology. More. A legitimate response would be: Do you still need your job, Kemp? If so, you know that the answer is Yes. (Turns out he doesn’t still need his job, so … ) We are told, Kemp here offers a timely and original reinterpretation of how higher taxa such Read More ›

Trend? Post-docs still in hock and jobless?

From The Scientist: A lack of jobs leaves postdocs without a future in academia in the United States. Meanwhile, other challenges threaten the postdoc community abroad. Postdoctoral fellows play a critical role in the research productivity of any country. Currently, the United States has a relatively strong postdoc infrastructure, offering higher salaries and more benefits than most other countries. Postdocs also have support from the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) and postdoc offices in most American universities. However, limited growth in federal research funding during the last decade has made it increasingly hard for postdocs to find permanent jobs. The limited funding has also created a highly competitive environment for those who do find positions as principal investigators (PIs). Under constant Read More ›

GR Has Returned (Not General Relativity, But Glucocorticoid Receptors)

In collaboration with Joe Thorton and his group, Eric Ortlund has come out with a new paper on GR. I’ve just very quickly looked at the news summary. We’ll want to wait until Michael Behe gives us an analysis of what these latest findings mean, but until such time, we can enjoy this quote: “What this highlights is how proteins that end up evolving new functions had those capacities, because of their flexibility, at the beginning of their evolutionary history,” says lead author Eric Ortlund, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry at Emory University School of Medicine. Although almost tautological, this, however, nicely links Aristotle’s ‘efficient’ and ‘final’ causes—as it should be in things teleological.

Irreducible Complexity by Accident

Here’s a Nature article about “active matter.” There’s excitement on the part of physicists (not for biologists, apparently) about this new breed of experiments that physicists are conducting and exploring. No more “dead matter” for them. So, how did they conduct this experiment in “active matter”? Let’s listen: First, Zvonimir Dogic and his students took microtubules — threadlike proteins that make up part of the cell’s internal ‘cytoskeleton’ — and mixed them with kinesins, motor proteins that travel along these threads like trains on a track. Then the researchers suspended droplets of this cocktail in oil and supplied it with the molecular fuel known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). To the team’s surprise and delight, the molecules organized themselves into large-scale Read More ›

Enough O2 long before animals?

From ScienceDaily: Oxygen is crucial for the existence of animals on Earth. But, an increase in oxygen did not apparently lead to the rise of the first animals. New research shows that 1.4 billion years ago there was enough oxygen for animals — and yet over 800 million years went by before the first animals appeared on Earth. Animals evolved by about 600 million years ago, which was late in Earth’s history. The late evolution of animals, and the fact that oxygen is central for animal respiration, has led to the widely promoted idea that animal evolution corresponded with a late a rise in atmospheric oxygen concentrations. “But sufficient oxygen in itself does not seem to be enough for animals Read More ›

Fraudulent protein paper pulled after 6 years

Structures were fabricated. From The Scientist: Neither Nature nor the paper’s authors have fully explained why it took so long to retract the study. “This is a pretty old story, I don’t know why Nature took so long,” coauthor Narayana Sthanam from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) told Retraction Watch. “Nature asked us maybe two months back, do I have any comment or objection for retracting.” Apparently, two authors did not agree to retraction. One of the coauthors who did not agree with the retraction, former UAB researcher M. Krishna Murthy, was found “solely responsible for the fraudulent data” by the UAB investigation. More. Note: Allegations of fraud may involve legal as well as career issues; it would Read More ›

Should science papers be anonymous?

Asks Stat News, offering a roundup of notable views in support: Hanel, a psychologist at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, posted a manuscript recently calling for anonymity in science articles. More than that, Hanel suggests stripping identifiers from virtually all academic output: doing away with name-based citations, CVs on researchers’ web sites, author names on book chapters, titles on academic journals, and more. The immodest proposal — made available on arXiv, a preprint server, before peer review — is akin to destroying the academic village in order to rid it of pests. But while some of what Hanel recommends is impossible at best, and perhaps even counterproductive, his overarching point seems pretty solid. When it comes to protecting the Read More ›

Recent research paper in BIO-Complexity

  A friend writes to draw attention to research papers in the Biologic Institute’s journal (as opposed to review papers). This might provide a start for those interested:   At the very end of 2014, BIO-Complexity published a paper by Reeves, Gauger, and Axe, “Enzyme Families–Shared Evolutionary History or Shared Design? A Study of the GABA-Aminotransferase Family” which reported experimental results attempting convert various proteins to perform the function of a closely related proteins. They showed that this enzyme conversion would require more mutations than would be feasible over the history of life. Yesterday on ENV Ann Gauger reviewed their latest research paper in BIO-Complexity, co-published with Doug Axe, “Model and Laboratory Demonstrations That Evolutionary Optimization Works Well Only if Read More ›

Dawkins on life as information technology (1991)

From Pos-Darwinista “If you want to understand life, don’t think about vibrant, throbbing gels and oozes, think about information technology”. – Richard Dawkins, 1991, The Blind Watchmaker, p. 112. Pos-Darwinista adds, I think he got it wrong – if we want to understand life we should and must think about genetic information. Sure, but once it’s “technology,” it is not random or without intelligence. Darwinism cannot bear that weight. But who knows, with enough name recognition, ol’ Dawkins could end up getting credit for developing the idea. See also: Dawkins becomes theistic evolutionist? and The enigma of information Follow UD News at Twitter!

Homo Naledi: Hawks accuses Shermer of murdering facts

Celebrated SkepticTM Michael Shermer makes the case in Scientific American recently that the recently found Naledi fossils represent humans engaged in murder rather than burial after natural death: Finally, the ages of the 13 individuals so identified—three infants, three young juveniles, one old juvenile, one subadult, four young adults and one old adult—are unlike those of other cave deposits for which cause of death and deposition have been determined. It’s a riddle, wrapped in sediment, inside a grotto. I believe the authors are downplaying an all too common cause of death in our ancestors—homicide in the form of war, murder or sacrifice. Lawrence H. Keeley, in War Before Civilization (1996), and Steven A. LeBlanc, in Constant Battles (2003), review hundreds Read More ›