Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

The universe exists because we are here?

Instead of the other way around? If you can’t sleep and have already overdosed on cute cat vids, try this one, from Futurism and SFGate: The brain isn’t the seat of consciousness but acts more like a radio receiver, and perhaps emitter, translating conscious activity into physical correlates. (The radio receiver metaphor describes the feedback loop between mind and brain, which are actually not separate but part of the same complementary activity in consciousness.) To understand our true participation in the universe, we must learn much more about awareness and how it turns mind into matter and vice versa. These are difficult truths for mainstream scientists to accept, and some would react to them with skepticism, disbelief, or anger. But Read More ›

Alternate history: What if a key DNA scientist had died before making his discovery?

From Ross Pomeroy at RealClearScience: We know this thanks to a lengthy chain reaction of scientific discoveries. And according to Cobb, if there was a single man who catalyzed this reaction, it was Oswald Avery. In 1944, Avery, a medical researcher at Rockefeller University, published a paper with his colleagues Colin MacLeod and Maclyn McCarty. The experiment they described showed that DNA carries genetic information. While that seems obvious today, back then it was a controversial conclusion, countering decades of entrenched thought. DNA had originally been discovered back in 1869, but the majority of scientists considered it to be too simple to carry meaningful biological information. That duty, they assumed, belonged to proteins. But a decade before Avery dented that Read More ›

Animal minds: Chickens, researchers say, are smarter than we think

Probably. The belief that birds must be less intelligent than mammals was based on Darwinism, not observation. From ScienceDaily: Chickens are not as clueless or “bird-brained” as people believe them to be. They have distinct personalities and can outmaneuver one another. They know their place in the pecking order, and can reason by deduction, which is an ability that humans develop by the age of seven. Chicken intelligence is therefore unnecessarily underestimated and overshadowed by other avian groups. So says Lori Marino, senior scientist for The Someone Project, a joint venture of Farm Sanctuary and the Kimmela Center in the USA, who reviewed the latest research about the psychology, behavior and emotions of the world’s most abundant domestic animal. Her Read More ›

The perils of becoming a theoretical physicist

From Bob Henderson, a finance writer with a physics background, at Nautilus: Einstein and Feynman ushered me into grad school, reality ushered me out. All of my classmates had taken up with advisors who were, like most physicists, experimentalists, the researchers who do the hands-on work of, say, smashing particles together at accelerators to see what comes out. Theorists like Rajeev, or for that matter Einstein and Feynman, who instead do the noodling necessary to explain the results of experiments with math are fewer and further between. A couple of Rochester’s experimentalists had pressured me to drop my dream of doing theory because, they explained, theory was so ridiculously difficult and had so few jobs. But I’d brushed them off. The Read More ›

2017 as the Year of Dark Matter?

So we hear, from Kate Lunau at Motherboard: 2017 might just be the year we finally catch one. And if we don’t, well, it may be that our best theories about dark matter are wrong—that we’re looking in the wrong places, with the wrong instruments. Maybe dark matter, whatever it is, will turn out to be even weirder and more surprising than anyone has so far predicted. Maybe it’s not a WIMP, but some other bizarre kind of particle. Then there’s the outside possibility that dark matter doesn’t exist, that it’s an illusion. If that’s the case, we’ll have to consider whether we’ve been fundamentally misreading the universe’s clues. … Buried deep in a mine near Sudbury in northern Ontario Read More ›

Letting the public in on the Lucy scans

From Lydia Pyne at Ars Technica: Forty years after she was discovered, Lucy, the world’s most famous fossil australopithecine, just might have a cause of death. In August of this year, a team of paleoanthropologists led by John Kappelman argued in Nature that Lucy died 3.2 million years ago by falling out of a tree. Their conclusion has been met with skepticism among fellow researchers, and Lucy’s death-by-tree-fall hypothesis has generated no shortage of debate within the scientific community of paleoanthropology. Doubts about whether ancient hominin Lucy fell to her death 3.18 million years ago But there’s a takeaway here that’s more significant than the study’s conclusion—this study’s approach to sharing data with the scientific community and the public at Read More ›

New York Times: Growing business of academic publication fraud.

In the wake of the bogus petition against teaching evolution, we might as well throw in “A Peek Inside the Strange World of Fake Academia” by Kevin Carey at New York Times: OMICS International is a leader in the growing business of academic publication fraud. It has created scores of “journals” that mimic the look and feel of traditional scholarly publications, but without the integrity. This year the Federal Trade Commission formally charged OMICS with “deceiving academics and researchers about the nature of its publications and hiding publication fees ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.” OMICS is also in the less well-known business of what might be called conference fraud, which is what led to the call from John. Read More ›

Remember that bogus petition against teaching evolution in US schools? Sponsored by Global Citizen of the Year…

It would have looked great as a three-dollar bill. A number of high-profile Darwinians ended up passing it around. David Klinghoffer updates the story at Evolution News & Views: I called out the Darwin activists who were promoting this “news,” including Michael Zimmerman of the Clergy Letter Project. Well, they’re back and defending themselves and each other. P.Z. Myers now agrees with me that “Joe Hannon” is a fake name — used, he informs us, by an often-banned Internet troll from Manchester, England, who haunts blog comments sections under a variety of pseudonyms. Myers cites University of Toronto’s Larry Moran, saying that “Hannon” is “a holocaust denier. He used to run a business ‘selling components — just nuts and bolts Read More ›

Sokal hoax 20 years old. Is the peer review system unreformable?

Yes, 20 years old: The hoax journal paper genre was started, as Dreier explains, by New York University physicist Alan Sokal in 1996. Sokal aimed to skewer the postmodern dogma that facts, even in mathematics and physics, are merely a social construct. He submitted an article to Social Text, a postmodern cultural studies journal, that, “shorn of its intentionally outrageous jargon, essentially made the claim that gravity was in the mind of the beholder.” From Jennifer Ruark at Chronicle of Higher Education: How the physicist Alan Sokal hoodwinked a group of humanists and why, 20 years later, it still matters. (paywall) But do Sokal hoaxes still matter? Are we not now in the age of post-fact science? (“I’m a factual Read More ›

When it Comes to Evolution Reporting:  ALWAYS Suspend Judgment Until the Actual Facts Come in

I read the headline of Denyse O’Leary’s post about the LiveScience article headlined “Gigantic Cambrian Shrimplike Creature Unearthed in Greenland,” and I did what I always do – suspended judgment while I waited for the real facts. Fortunately in this case, the real facts were not long in coming.  The story itself states that “Gigantic” refers to a beastie that was about two and half feet long.  And the phrase “massive frontal appendage” in the story refers to an appendage that appears to be about one-fourth of that length – i.e., about eight inches long. It is not hard to understand why I suspend judgment whenever I read the latest hyperventilating story about evolution.  Countless times I have seen articles Read More ›

“Gigantic” Cambrian creature (520 mya) found

In Greenland. From Tia Ghose at LiveScience: The species, dubbed Tamisiocaris borealis, used large, bristly appendages on its body to rake in tiny shrimplike creatures from the sea, and likely evolved from the top predators of the day to take advantage of a bloom in new foods in its ecosystem, said study co-author Jakob Vinther, a paleobiologist at the University of Bristol in England. More. This is tremendous, but let’s all revise our expectations about “gigantic”: These ancient sea monsters grew to about 70 centimeters (2.7 feet) long and “looked like something completely out of this planet,” with massive frontal appendages for grasping prey, huge eyes on stalks, and a mouth shaped like a piece of canned pineapple, Vinther told Read More ›

Stories that mattered in 2016: 2. Search for ET life more focused, less aimless conjecture

For example, Life on Mars: New focus on deciding where to look vs. The aliens went extinct before we found them— there, that’s the answer! But now, consider all the other theses about why the aliens, they never write, they never phone Astrobiology is, as has been famously said, at present a discipline without a subject. And, one would add, philosophy of science hobby where hidden theology rules, in the absence of evidence. You know the sort of thing: What kind of a God would/wouldn’t …? What warm pillows for an academic grantsman when we actually don’t know what is going on out there. Either we can’t know about extraterrestrial life, in which case we should just forget about it. Read More ›

Religious fervor or mental illness: SciAM guest blogger wonders how to tell

From physician Nathaniel P. Morris at Scientific American: Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he’s hearing voices in his head, but insists there’s nothing wrong with him. He hasn’t used any drugs or alcohol. If he were to be evaluated by mental health professionals, there’s a good chance he might be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia. But what if that same man were deeply religious? What if his incomprehensible language was speaking in tongues? If he could hear Jesus speaking to him? He might also insist nothing were wrong with him. After all, he’s practicing his faith. It’s not just the ambiguities of mental health diagnoses that create Read More ›

Stories that mattered in 2016 – 1: Royal Society Conference

Not what we consider most interesting, not what got us the most hits, but stories that seem to signal a growing trend: 1. The Royal Society’s almost aborted efforts to free evolution studies from the stranglehold of Darwinism have been hope in the midst of stagnation. It is safer to be a non-Darwinian now that many are rethinking evolution. Also, much more interesting, as a recent books list shows. Note: The issue isn’t really whether Darwinism (or neo-Darwinism or whatever) will be disconfirmed. It has long functioned as a religion, or if you like, a metaphysic, as Darwinist historian Michael Ruse has often pointed out: Evolution after Darwin had set itself up to be something more than science. It was Read More ›