Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Fisher’s proof of Darwinian evolution has been flipped?

That’s what they say. From the paper by Bill Basener and John Sanford on Fisher’s Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection, published in The Journal of Mathematical Biology: Abstract: The mutation–selection process is the most fundamental mechanism of evolution. In 1935, R. A. Fisher proved his fundamental theorem of natural selection, providing a model in which the rate of change of mean fitness is equal to the genetic variance of a species. Fisher did not include mutations in his model, but believed that mutations would provide a continual supply of variance resulting in perpetual increase in mean fitness, thus providing a foundation for neo-Darwinian theory. In this paper we re-examine Fisher’s Theorem, showing that because it disregards mutations, and because it Read More ›

Grand evolution theory for complex animals in ruins; fossil is, in fact, a jellyfish

From ScienceDaily: Pseudooides fossils have a segmented middle like the embryos of segmented animals, such as insects, inspiring grand theories on how complex segmented animals may have evolved. A team of paleontologists from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences and Peking University have now peered inside the Pseudooides embryos using X-rays and found features that link them to the adult stages of another fossil group. It turns out that these adult stages were right under the scientists’ noses all along: they have been found long ago in the same rocks as Pseudooides. Surprisingly, these long-lost family members are not complex segmented animals at all, but ancestors of modern jellyfish. Paper. (public access) – Baichuan Duan, Xi-Ping Dong, Luis Read More ›

A new piece found in the puzzle of water’s strange, life-enabling behavior

From ScienceDaily: Water is unique, as it can exist in two liquid states that have different ways of bonding the water molecules together. The water fluctuates between these states as if it can’t make up its mind and these fluctuations reach a maximum at -44°C. It is this ability to shift from one liquid state into another that gives water its unusual properties and since the fluctuations increase upon cooling also the strangeness increases. “What was special was that we were able to X-ray unimaginably fast before the ice froze and could observe how it fluctuated between the two states,” says Anders Nilsson, Professor of Chemical Physics at Stockholm University. “For decades there has been speculations and different theories to Read More ›

Can morals be grounded as objective knowledge (and are some moral principles self-evident)?

In a current thread, objector JS writes: >>ALL morals that we have, regardless of the source, regardless of whether they are objective or subjective, are filtered through humans. As such, we can never be absolutely sure that they are free from error. All of your “moral governance”, “reasoning and responsibility“, “self referential”, “IS-OUGHT” talking points are just that. Talking points. They are not arguments against what I have said about the fact that ALL purported moral actions are open to be questioned. Unless, of course, you suggest that we shouldn’t use the reasoning capabilities that we were given. >> This is of course reflective of common views and agendas in our civilisation and so it is appropriate to reply, taking Read More ›

Diversity or mere division? Another reason the March for Science didn’t have much impact

Physics Today’s media analyst., Steven T. Corneliussen, whom we quoted earlier on the downturn of pop science writing drew attention to the fate of the March for Science, as covered by Kate Sheridan and Lev Facher at STAT: The event’s official diversity policy, posted just days after the march was announced in January, has undergone repeated revisions, and is now in its fourth version. They were not inclusive enough, it seems. The statement was designed to be an evolving document, Holloway said, but the massive early interest led to a level of scrutiny the march’s organizers didn’t expect. It was rewritten and expanded in late January, and tweaked again in February to add language about disability and inclusiveness. The official Read More ›

Artificial intelligence is no smarter than a rat?

But why not? From Rod Kackley at PJMedia: The “AI Index” released by Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, SRI International, and other research organizations shows artificial intelligence produced in the United States is no smarter than a five-year-old. And Yann LeCun, the head of AI for Facebook, said even the most advanced artificial intelligence systems are no sharper on the uptake than vermin. The term “artificial intelligence” has been around since the mid-1950s when science fiction writers fantasized about automobiles that drove themselves, computers that could see, and even phones smart enough to respond to spoken commands. However, the Stanford-led group that produced the AI index is the first to attempt to create a baseline to measure the Read More ›

Most of the pop science media are poised on the edge of the recycle bin…

In an earlier story today, the woes of the pop science mag industry were mentioned. To expand a little further, Steven T. Corneliussen tells us at Physics Today: The Financial Times highlighted one dimension of science journalism’s ceaseless churn by reporting in April that RELX, formerly Reed Elsevier, had sold the magazine New Scientist to “investment vehicle” Kingston Acquisitions. The half-century-old publication claims a weekly global audience above 3 million. Across the science magazine business, a wider recent sampling shows multiple dimensions of the churn, seen in innovation, adaptation, transformation, and high hopes. “Churn” typically means severance packages. Corneliussen also reports The Nieman Lab recently examined other dimensions of change at Popular Science. It has had four editors in five Read More ›

As post-modern cosmology loses interest in evidence, science publications lose the interest of readers

A recent piece by Natalie Wolchover in The Atlantic (also in Quanta) tells us: String Theory: The Best Explanation for Everything in the Universe. String theory (or, more technically, M-theory) is often described as the leading candidate for the theory of everything in our universe. But there’s no empirical evidence for it, or for any alternative ideas about how gravity might unify with the rest of the fundamental forces. Why, then, is string/M-theory given the edge over the others? At Not Even Wrong, Peter Woit answers a question with a question: In a time when the credibility of science is under attack, does anyone else see a problem with telling the public that the “Best Explanation for Everything in the Universe” that science Read More ›

New Scientist: Why atheists think harder than other folk. Huh?

They’re more humble too. From Graham Lawton at New Scientist: Almost everybody who has ever lived has believed in some kind of deity. Even in today’s enlightened and materialistic times, atheism remains a minority pursuit requiring hard intellectual graft. Even committed atheists easily fall prey to supernatural ideas. Religious… More. After you’ve picked yourself up off the floor from laughing, you might want to note the post-modern rise in superstition and bunkum, generally. See also: If naturalism can explain religion, why does it get so many basic facts wrong? and Lay off Graham Lawton (more on the New Scientist “Darwin was wrong” article) (2009) A New Scientist editor acknowledges that the riddle of free will is unsolved (2011) Collectively, New Read More ›

A review of remarkable cases of people’s minds functioning despite brain damage

Abstract: Neuroscientists typically assume that human mental functions are generated by the brain and that its structural elements, including the different cell layers and tissues that form the neocortex, play specific roles in this complex process. Different functional units are thought to complement one another to create an integrated self-awareness or episodic memory. Still, findings that pertain to brain dysplasia and brain lesions indicate that in some individuals there is a considerable discrepancy between the cerebral structures and cognitive functioning. This seems to question the seemingly well-defined role of these brain structures. This article provides a review of such remarkable cases. It contains overviews of noteworthy aspects of hydrocephalus, hemihydranencephaly, hemispherectomy, and certain abilities of “savants.” We add considerations on Read More ›

Down syndrome: It turns out there are human beings in there…

From Coner Friedersdorf at the Atlantic: ‘I Am a Man With Down Syndrome and My Life Is Worth Living’ Last week, the actor, Special Olympian, and advocate Frank Stephens gave this testimony to Congress: “I am a man with Down syndrome and my life is worth living.” In fact, he went farther: “I have a great life!” For those conceived with his developmental disability, it is the best and worst of times. “The life expectancy for someone born with Down syndrome has increased from twenty-five in the early 1980s to more than fifty today,” Caitrin Keiper writes in The New Atlantis. “In many other ways as well, a child born with Down syndrome today has brighter prospects than at any Read More ›

Film night with Philip Cunningham: Atheists’ reasons for not believing in God are not scientific, and more…

He offers assorted notes… In a compiled video of 50 elite scientists, no scientific evidence was ever presented for atheism but their arguments were philosophical and theological, i.e. ‘their typical arguments are rather common and shallow – god of the gaps and the existence of evil.’ Elite Scientists Don’t Have Elite Reasons for Being Atheists: (November 8, 2016) Excerpt: Dr. Jonathan Pararejasingham has compiled a video of elite scientists and scholars to make the connection between atheism and science. Unfortunately for Pararejasingham, once you get past the self-identification of these scholars as non-believers, there is simply very little there to justify the belief in atheism…. What I found was 50 elite scientists expressing their personal opinions, but none had some Read More ›

Philosopher Jerry Fodor, foe of the natural selection cult, no longer needs the Witness Protection Program

And we can still read him. From Suzan Mazur at HuffPost, including a 2008 interview: We are grateful to Jerry Fodor—perhaps the most substantial philosopher of our time, who has now died—for exposing what he called the “empty” Darwinian theory of natural selection and for his courage as well as his superb humor in the face of unrelenting opposition. “I’m in the Witness Protection Program,” Fodor joked when I called him to request an interview following publication of his provocative article in the London Review of Books (“Why Pigs Don’t Have Wings,” October 2007) about the problems of Darwin’s selectionist theory. Fodor never claimed to be a biologist. “It’s not my field,” he told me. But he was the son Read More ›

Is the cachet of being pro-Darwin fading?

Reader Joey Campagna writes to ask about a controversial Canadian prof: He is a pro-Darwin and pro-Evolution professor of psychology at the University of Toronto in Canada. He is a tenured professor with hundreds of academic works, many peer-reviewed, and is widely cited in the literature of his field. He is being decried and denounced by academics and media outlets. I have seen online sources call him all manner of names from moron to a bigot, alt-right to Hitler, fundamentalist to ill-informed, just Google his name to confirm, links below. His name is Dr. Jordan B. Peterson. What did he do wrong? To oversimplify an extremely complex person and situation, he is refusing to tow the PC party line by Read More ›

Origin of life challenge: The information challenge is the only one that counts

From Brian Miller at Evolution News & Views: The first issue relates to the comparison of the sequencing of amino acids in proteins to the letters in a sentence. This analogy is generally disliked by design critics since it so clearly reveals the powerful evidence for intelligence from the information contained in life. It also helps lay audiences see past the technobabble and misdirection often used to mislead the public, albeit unintentionally. … The challenge for nucleotide based enzymes (ribozymes) is equally daunting. Stumbling across a random sequence that could perform even one of the most basic reactions also requires a search library in the trillions. So, any multistage process would also be beyond the reach of chance. A glimmer Read More ›