Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Merry Christmas: A celebration of hope, and a cherishing of Children

The morrow is Christmas, in this, the year of Our Lord 2017. My thoughts have been stirred by exchanges on a sad incident at a Walmart in California, and so let me clip from a comment in that thread: KF, 8:>>observe how Christmas comes out in say the Harry Potter books, pointing to the issue that Christmas is also a time for kids to be celebrated and cherished. Makes a lot of sense as a child embodies a world of hope, echoing the hopes of Divine breakthrough and rescue centred on the Christ child that are to be found in the opening chapters of Matthew and Luke.>> In the F/N following, I added: “if Christmas is in material part a Read More ›

Treasure trove of new Cambrian fossils raises big question

From ScienceDaily: A team of palaeontologists from Uppsala (Ben Slater, Sebastian Willman, Graham Budd and John Peel) used a low-manipulation acid extraction procedure to dissolve some of these less intensively cooked mudrocks. To their astonishment, this simple preparation technique revealed a wealth of previously unknown microscopic animal fossils preserved in spectacular detail. Most of the fossils were less than a millimetre long and had to be studied under the microscope. Fossils at the nearby Sirius Passet site typically preserve much larger animals, so the new finds fill an important gap in our knowledge of the small-scale animals that probably made up the majority of these ecosystems. Among the discoveries were the tiny spines and teeth of priapulid worms — small Read More ›

Among the real reasons many people “hate science”: Prozac as cause, not cure, of mental illness

From Jeanne Lenzer at Undark: In another case of cure as cause, a landmark study of Prozac to treat adolescent depression found that it increased overall suicidality — the very outcome it is intended to prevent. In the study, 15 percent of depressed adolescents treated with Prozac became suicidal, versus 6 percent treated with psychotherapy, and 11 percent treated with placebo. These numbers were not made obvious by Eli Lilly, the manufacturer, or the lead researcher who claimed that Prozac was “the big winner” in the treatment of depressed teens. Doctors, unaware that the drug could increase suicidality, often increased the dosage when teens became more depressed in treatment, thinking the underlying depression — not the drug — was at Read More ›

String theory is alive, there just isn’t any evidence for it

That’s the big change that naturalism (nature is all there is and you did not evolve to understand it correctly) has created in science. Evidence isn’t critical any more. From Natalie Wolchover at Quanta: 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? … This basic sequence of events has led most experts to consider M-theory the leading TOE candidate, even as its exact definition in a universe like ours remains unknown. Whether the Read More ›

Do we even need dark energy to explain cosmic expansion?

From ScienceDaily: Three mathematicians have a different explanation for the accelerating expansion of the universe that does without theories of “dark energy.” Einstein’s original equations for General Relativity actually predict cosmic acceleration due to an “instability,” they argue in paper published recently in Proceedings of the Royal Society A. Paper. (public access) – Joel Smoller, Blake Temple, Zeke Vogler. An instability of the standard model of cosmology creates the anomalous acceleration without dark energy. Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Science, 2017; 473 (2207): 20160887 DOI: 10.1098/rspa.2016.0887 More. Well, if we don’t need dark energy to account for cosmic expansion, isn’t that a bit like not needing Santa Claus to explain the wine, cheese, and chocolates Read More ›

The problem of virtue-signalling social permission to target and bully scapegoated groups

This is where we now are as a civilisation: >>A Salvation Army bell ringer in California had been beaten in front of a Walmart because he wanted to spread joy this holiday season. Rev. Jamie Wolfe Sr., the man ringing the bell, told CBS Sacramento that he says “Merry Christmas” to everyone who passes by his donation bucket, but one Grinch managed to knock the joy out of him. “He haymakered me, hit me, got me down on the ground and we started wrestling, at that point I’m fighting for my life,” Wolfe Sr. said. The suspect allegedly carried out the unprovoked attack not for the money, but for his cheer. “Store says they love him and he’s been the Read More ›

Sci-Tech: Apple walks off the edge of the cliff — who’s next?

One of the underlying themes of UD is that we need to be aware of how big, powerful institutions and organisations can go wrong. A typical rhetorical response to that, is to dismiss such concerns as mere ill-founded, empty conspiracist theorising. So, it is appropriate to point out a striking case that shows how easily institutions and organisations can lock in a group think mentality and march right over the cliff: Before reading the Business Insider clip below, ask yourself, do you think that no-one in Apple ever paused and asked whether this was a sound idea? Then, ponder why the firm marched in lockstep right over a cliff like this: >>Apple confirmed a longtime conspiracy theory — and gave Read More ›

Do bacteria rule the Earth? Without really trying?

Yes, yes, it’s Friday night. Philip Cunningham offers us some notes on the subject. We rather suspect he agrees. 😉 A single sand grain harbours up to 100,000 microorganisms from thousands of species.” Your visit to the beach will never be the same. The sand you sit on, build sand castles with and bury yourself in is crawling with germs. But not to worry; they’re good germs. They’re doing you and the world a favor by helping keep the ocean clean and keep earth’s nitrogen and carbon cycles going…. You travel to Antarctica. Now are you germ-free? No;… Surprisingly, the same kinds of bacteria live at both poles…. Bacteria Rule the Earth – David F. Coppedge, December 14, 2017 Information Read More ›

Phineas Gage files: Funny how the naturalist legend so long outlived the man…

From Steve Twomey at the Smithsonian Magazine (2010), presumably a vintage article recycled this morning or so, without context, about the catastrophic brain injuries that supposedly greatly changed a man’s personality (psych lecture room staple): Gage’s initial survival would have ensured him a measure of celebrity, but his name was etched into history by observations made by John Martyn Harlow, the doctor who treated him for a few months afterward. Gage’s friends found him“no longer Gage,” Harlow wrote. The balance between his “intellectual faculties and animal propensities” seemed gone. He could not stick to plans, uttered “the grossest profanity” and showed “little deference for his fellows.” The railroad-construction company that employed him, which had thought him a model foreman, refused to Read More ›

Researchers at CERN: The universe should not exist

You shouldn’t exist either. But the people saying so in this case are not population bombers or jihadis. From Philip Perry at BigThink: What CERN scientists say as a result of their latest experiment is: the universe itself is a miracle, as it shouldn’t exist at all. This is of course taken in reference to the Big Bang theory. Though the prevailing one, it’s not the only theory to explain how all and everything came into being. Still, in this view, it all starts with the singularity. We all pretty much know by now that naturalists (nature is all there is) hate th ig Bang and the only question is, how much will they twist science to discredit its significance. Read More ›

Fossil micro-organisms that could not arise via Darwinism prove that life in the universe is common? Why? How?

From ScienceDaily: A new analysis of the oldest known fossil microorganisms provides strong evidence to support an increasingly widespread understanding that life in the universe is common. The microorganisms, from Western Australia, are 3.465 billion years old. Scientists from UCLA and the University of Wisconsin-Madison report today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that two of the species they studied appear to have performed a primitive form of photosynthesis, another apparently produced methane gas, and two others appear to have consumed methane and used it to build their cell walls. The evidence that a diverse group of organisms had already evolved extremely early in the Earth’s history — combined with scientists’ knowledge of the vast number Read More ›

Science historian: AN Wilson’s Darwin biography contains a baseless charge, factual errors

We’d heard that. But of course, the Twitterverse could nuke tweet such a claim to depress sales. We waited till science historian Michael Flannery read it. He says yes and worse at Evolution News & Views: But my uneasy sense of déjà vu turned to dismay when I read Wilson’s claim that Darwin did more than merely suppress his predecessors, he actually stole ideas from Edward Byth’s proto-theory of natural selection, published in two essays appearing in the Magazine of Nature History in 1835 and 1837. Wilson claims some mysteriously missing pages in Darwin’s notebooks prove it. The problem is, these have long been recovered and are readily available in Charles Darwin’s Notebooks, 1836-1844 (1987). Historians have since examined these Read More ›

The spliceosome: a molecular machine that defies any non-design explanation.

OK, let’s start with a very simple fact: eukaryotic genes have introns. IOWs, they are not continuous. They are made of exons and introns: exon – intron – exon – intron – exon and so on. Exons code for the protein. Introns don’t. So, when the content of the gene is copied to the mRNA, introns must be cut away, and only exons are retained, in order to be translated, so that the mature mRNA can be transferred to the cytoplasm and translated by the ribosome. This process of removing introns is called splicing. Now, a few clarifications: a) Introns exist in prokaryotes too, but they are rather rare. For our purposes, we will only discuss introns in eukaryotes. b) Read More ›

Thought for the Day: “False sciences” make the method come first

Philosopher Étienne Gilson (1884–1978): A scientist never begins by defining the method of the science he is about to initiate. Indeed, the surest way of recognizing false sciences is by the fact that they make the method come first. The method, however, should derive from the science, not the science from the method.” – Etienne Gilson, Methodical Realism. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011, p. 100. Evolution does not exist in order to make Darwin right. One thinks here of molecular evolutionist Dan Graur’s war cry: “… if ENCODE is right, then evolution is wrong. ENCODE argues that there is not much “junk” in our DNA. Graur disagrees. How about: Either ENCODE or Graur could be wrong but the facts are never Read More ›

Can the rot of naturalism be stopped? Relating information to matter and energy might help

From O’Leary for News at Evolution News & Views: Philosopher of consciousness John Searle identified this underlying theme of post-modernism in Mind, Language and Society: Philosophy in the Real World (2008): “[I]t satisfies a basic urge to power. It just seems too disgusting, somehow, that we should have to be at the mercy of the ‘real world.’” If consciousness is an illusion, the comfort is that there is no “real world” anyway, just the one we insist on. Science may not survive this. For one thing, science opinion leaders are themselves putting failing claims beyond the reach of disconfirmation by evidence. If design proponents did nothing but confront that fact, in the face of tenured nihilists and Wikipedian trolls, it Read More ›