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Chambers on Materialist Politics

In a recent post I noted that when materialist metaphysics meets politics (whether on the left or the right), it always devolves into mere right-makes-right force.  I said, We err when we think of fascism, communism, Marxism, and progressivism as being different things.  They are not.  They are different versions of the same thing.  We especially err when we think of a fascist like Hitler and a communist like Stalin as being somehow polar opposites (with one on the “right” and one of the “left”).  Hitler and Stalin had far more in common than otherwise, and a political analysis that perceives them as opposites is deeply flawed.  If all of these things are versions of the same thing, what thing Read More ›

Op-Ed at The Scientist pleads for peer review—too late

No sorry, Tricia, the peer review system is dead. Skinny: Tricia Serio’s  op-ed demonstrated the fact unwittingly at The Scientist: Peer Review is in Crisis, But Should Be Fixed, Not Abolished This year three Nobel Prize-winning biologists broke with tradition and published their research directly on the Internet as so-called preprints. Their motivation? Saving time. Gosh. Why would that matter to them? How did things get so bad? It’s all about competition, supply, and demand. Modern science is done in the context of a tournament mentality, with a large number of competitors (scientists) vying for a small number of prizes (jobs, tenure, funding). To be competitive, scientists must prove their “worth” through publications, and this pressure has created unanticipated challenges in Read More ›

Royal Society accused of breach of public trust re evolution conference

For failing to make public comments on the recent meeting on rethinking evolution available. From James McAllister at Environmental Evolution: Dear members of the Scientific Programmes team, As one of the participating audience members in the recent Royal Society meeting, New trends in evolutionary biology: biological, philosophical and social science perspectives, I am greatly disappointed to find that the audio recordings made available of the meeting on your site omit the questions and comments from the audience and the responses of the presenters. While the presentations and round tables present good and valuable information, I found that the audience participation segments invaluable in understanding how various persons can approach the data from very different perspectives. I believe that these omitted segments Read More ›

Larry Krauss goes after new US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

From cosmologist Larry Krauss, our favorite spokesman for scientism, at the New Yorker:  A long-form rant on a variety of subjects re the impending a-Trump-a-lypse, some of which intersect with items O’Leary for News has covered recently, including science education: And the Trump Administration is on course to undermine science in another way: through education. Educators have various concerns about Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education—they object to her efforts to shield charter schools from government regulation, for example—but one issue stands above the rest: DeVos is a fundamentalist Christian with a long history of opposition to science. If her faith shapes her policies—and there is evidence that it will—she could shape science education decisively for the worse, Read More ›

How much difference does the science journal “impact factor” really make?

From Yan Wang, Haoyang Li, and Shibo Jiang at The Scientist: Even as Eugene Garfield proposed the impact factor more than half a century ago, he had reservations. “I expected it to be used constructively while recognizing that in the wrong hands it might be abused,” he said in a presentation he gave at the International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication in September 2005. Indeed, while Garfield had intended the measure to help scientists search for bibliographic references, impact factor (IF) was quickly adopted to assess the influence of particular journals and, not long after, of individual scientists. It has since become a divisive term in the scientific community, with young researchers still striving to demonstrate their worthy Read More ›

Disney and scientism: The Disney we laughed at

 Laughed too soon and too easily? From John G. West, author of Walt Disney and Live Action, at Evolution News & Views : Someone once quipped that Walt Disney harbored “19th-century emotions in conflict with a 21st-century brain.” The characterization was apt. Disney, who died fifty years ago on December 15, was known for championing traditional morality and promoting nostalgia for a simpler past epitomized by small-town America. At the same time, he was widely recognized as a visionary futurist who enthusiastically embraced the new horizons offered by science and technology. Disney’s idiosyncratic mixture of moral traditionalism and techno-optimism didn’t always seem to cohere, and it led people to admire him for vastly different reasons. Disney was a futurist. But Read More ›

Neanderthals visited Jersey for 140,000 years

A special place for them? From ScienceDaily: New research led by the University of Southampton shows Neanderthals kept coming back to a coastal cave site in Jersey from at least 180,000 years ago until around 40,000 years ago. … Lead author Dr Andy Shaw of the Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins (CAHO) at the University of Southampton said: “La Cotte seems to have been a special place for Neanderthals. They kept making deliberate journeys to reach the site over many, many generations. We can use the stone tools they left behind to map how they were moving through landscapes, which are now beneath the English Channel. 180,000 years ago, as ice caps expanded and temperatures plummeted, they would Read More ›

Nautilus: ET will force Darwin’s theory to adapt?

From astronomer and physicist Milan Ćirković at Nautilus: When H.G. Wells wrote about aliens, his wild imaginings were shaped by Darwin’s theory of evolution. In The War of the Worlds, giant Martian invaders with whip-like arms are threatened by extinction and so expand into a new ecological niche by colonizing other planets, notably Earth. In The Time Machine, a time traveler visiting the future stumbles upon two posthuman species. What led Wells to these majestic speculations, inspiring science-fiction buffs and also many scientists to this day? A firm belief in the universality of evolution by natural selection. But does evolution operate the same on life everywhere? The success of Darwinian theory to explain life on Earth has lulled many of Read More ›

Harsh words for “history of science” as a discipline. But hardly fair ones

From David Deming at RealClearScience: After a grand beginning, the academic study of the history of science has largely degenerated into a caricature of itself. It is not that it is merely bad. No, it is far worse than that. The scholarship being produced by most historians of science today is not good enough to be bad. Consider a quote from a recent paper by two historians of chemistry. “We find that efforts to differentiate alchemy from chemistry prove to be anachronistic, arbitrary, or presentist.” In other words, there is no difference between alchemy and chemistry. This thesis would not only shock a modern chemist, it would be rejected by any intelligent person with no special knowledge of these subjects. Read More ›

Fly over a vallis on Mars where water once flowed

Via Steve Spaleta at LiveScience: Mawrth Vallis – The outflow channel is ~373 miles long (600 km) and about 1.2 miles deep 2 km). The indicators of liquid water in the past have made this area a landing site candidate for the ExoMars 2020 mission. More. See also: Huge ice lake under surface of Mars? Researchers: Life could only exist on Mars far beneath surface and Google Mars Follow UD News at Twitter!

Evolutionary Biology journal edition (Springer) free until December 30

Special issue on Evolutionary Patterns here. Abstract from guest editorial introduction: The natural world demonstrates signs of spatial–temporal order, an order that appears to us through a series of recognizable, recurring and consecutive patterns, i.e. regularities in forms, functions, behaviors, events and processes. These patterns lend insight into the modes and tempos of evolution and thus into the units, levels, and mechanisms that underlie the evolutionary hierarchy. Contributors to this special issue analyze converging patterns in the biological and sociocultural realm across and beyond classic divisions between micro- and macro-evolution; horizontal/reticulate and vertical evolution; phylogeny, ontogeny and ecology; synchronic and diachronic sociocultural and linguistic research; and tree and network diagrams. Explanations are sought in complexity theory, major transitions of evolution, and Read More ›

Biology prof: How can we really know if the universe is fine-tuned?

From Waynesburg U biology prof Wayne Rossiter, author of Shadow of Oz: Theistic Evolution and the Absent God, a question about claims for fine tuning of the universe: My major concern with arguments from fine-tuning in cosmology is, how do we really get from from observations of precision to statements of probability? To say that something is precise is not to say that it is improbable. Those are two different things. As a third quick analogy, if we studied the fall patterns of icicles from the roof of my home, we might find that their placement is incredibly precise. Given the vast surface area a given icicle could fall on (my yard, the road, my neighbor’s yard, etc.), the fact Read More ›

Epigenetics: What China’s government famine can teach us about inherited starvation effects

From ScienceDaily: The increased risk of hyperglycemia associated with prenatal exposure to famine is also passed down to the next generation, according to a new study of hundreds of families affected by widespread starvation in mid-20th Century China. … Among 983 people gestated during the famine years, 31.2 percent had hyperglycemia and 11.2 percent had type 2 diabetes. By comparison, among 1,085 people gestated just after the famine ended, the prevalence of hyperglycemia was 16.9 percent, and the prevalence of type 2 diabetes as 5.6 percent. Controlling for factors such as gender, smoking, physical activity, calorie consumption and body-mass index, the researchers calculated that in utero famine exposure was associated with 1.93-times higher odds of hyperglycemia and a 1.75 times Read More ›

Phil Sci journal: Special section on understanding viruses

Are they or are they not life forms? Note that the article on giant viruses, abstracted below, is public access. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science: Special section on Understanding viruses: Philosophical investigations For example, Understanding viruses: Philosophical investigations: Viruses have been virtually absent from philosophy of biology. In this editorial introduction, we explain why we think viruses are philosophically important. We focus on six issues (the definition of viruses, the individuality and diachronic identity of a virus, the possibility to classify viruses into species, the question of whether viruses are living, the question of whether viruses are organisms, and finally the biological roles of viruses in ecology and evolution), and we show how they relate to classic questions Read More ›

PhysicsWorld: Proxima B in editors’ list of physics breakthroughs of 2016

Here:  (breakthroughs not listed in any particular order after gravitational waves): Rocky planet found in habitable zone around Sun’s nearest neighbour Brave new world: artist’s impression of Proxima b To the Pale Red Dot collaboration for finding clear evidence that a rocky exoplanet orbits within the habitable zone of Proxima Centauri, which is the nearest star to the solar system. Dubbed Proxima b, the exoplanet has a mass about 1.3 times that of the Earth and is therefore most likely a terrestrial planet with a rocky surface. Our newly found neighbour also lies within its star’s habitable zone, meaning that it could, in theory, sustain liquid water on its surface, and may even have an atmosphere. Proxima Centauri is a Read More ›