Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Synthetic chemist James Tour wonders why “everyone is lying” about the origin of life

From James Tour at Inference Review: Life requires carbohydrates, nucleic acids, lipids, and proteins. What is the chemistry behind their origin? Biologists seem to think that there are well-understood prebiotic molecular mechanisms for their synthesis. They have been grossly misinformed. And no wonder: few biologists have ever synthesized a complex molecule ab initio. If they need a molecule, they purchase molecular synthesis kits, which are, of course, designed by synthetic chemists, and which feature simplistic protocols.More. He doesn’t literally mean that “everyone is lying” but rather that the problem is so much bigger and deeper than it is often portrayed that typical science media claims are not reliable. See also: Chemist James Tour calls out Jeremy England’s origin of life Read More ›

A Conversation With a TE

UD Editors:  This is an update from an article originally posted in 2014.  We are posting it again in honor of the publication of “Theistic Evolution.”   Preliminary Note:  I have put words in the TE’s mouth based on my understanding of what he would in fact say.  If I have gotten it wrong, I trust you will inform me. IDist: World-renowned atheist Richard Dawkins says that living things overwhelmingly impress us with the appearance of design by an agent (whom he calls a master watchmaker). Theistic Evolutionist: Yes he does. IDist: Do you agree with that observation? TE: Yes of course. It is undeniable. IDist: Dawkins goes on to say that the impression of design by an agent is an Read More ›

New butterfly has 46 chromosomes, like a human, not the expected 68, like a close relative

From ScienceDaily: Finding a new species is a rare event in easy-to-see and well-studied organisms like butterflies, especially if they inhabit well-explored areas such as Europe. Researchers have now discovered the previously unknown South-Russian blue using an array of modern research techniques. Furthermore, the new species was found to possess 46 chromosomes, just like a human, whereas its closest relative has 68 chromosomes. … Discovered by Vladimir Lukhtanov, entomologist and evolutionary biologist at the Zoological Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Alexander Dantchenko, entomologist and chemist at the Moscow State University, the startling discovery was named South-Russian blue (Polyommatus australorossicus). It was found flying over the northern slopes of the Caucasus mountains in southern Russia. The study is published in Read More ›

A look at earliest human ancestors so far known (350 kya), found in modern-day Morocco

From Zach Zorich at Archaeology: The Jebel Irhoud hominins apparently lived 350,000 years after Neanderthals and Homo sapiens last shared a common ancestor, long enough for the two lineages to develop some obvious differences. The people of Jebel Irhoud had flat and short faces like modern humans, but their brains were more elongated and their teeth much larger. Their brow ridges were also more prominent than those of humans living today, but not as heavy as those of Neanderthals. More. From Ann Gibbon at Science, we learn, “This stuff is a time and a half older than anything else put forward as H. sapiens,” says paleoanthropologist John Fleagle of the State University of New York in Stony Brook. The discoveries, Read More ›

God as a necessary, maximally great, endless being vs. the challenge to an actual infinity

In a recent thread, the Kalam Cosmological argument family was challenged on the issue: can an actual infinity exist? If not (presumably due to Hilbert’s Hotel-like absurdities), then God could not be an infinite being as such is impossible of being. A thread of discussion developed, and I thought a summary intervention may be helpful. On further thought, perhaps it should be headlined: _________________ KF, 12: >> I think several themes are worth highlighting. It can be discussed that non-being, true nothingness cannot be a causal source. Were there ever utter nothing, such would therefore forever obtain. There would be no world.But, manifestly, there is a world. So, we must ponder the logic of being, at least in a nutshell. Read More ›

New Yorker on the late Jerry Fodor, a careful thinker who took on the “natural selection” cult

From Stephen Metcalf at the New Yorker: Jerry Fodor’s Enduring Critique of Neo-Darwinism … But nothing inspired his skepticism more than the current vogue for Charles Darwin—specifically, the fusion of evolutionary biology, Mendelian genetics, and cognitive neuroscience known as neo-Darwinism. “Neo-Darwinism is taken as axiomatic,” he wrote in “What Darwin Got Wrong,” co-written with Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini, a cognitive scientist, and published in 2010. “It goes literally unquestioned. A view that looks to contradict it, either directly or by implication, is ipso facto rejected, however plausible it may otherwise seem.” Fodor thought that the neo-Darwinists had confused the loyalty oath of modernity—nature is without conscious design, species evolve over time, the emergence of Homo sapiens was without meaning or telos—with blind Read More ›

Peter Woit on what’s wrong with Jerry Coyne’s argument for a multiverse

Facebook and YouTube, he says. Columbia mathematician and string theory skeptic Peter Woit at Not Even Wrong: The Youtube video he found makes the standard tenuous argument that the CMB provides evidence for inflation, inflation should be eternal, thus there should be a multiverse. As I explained in detail here, the models of inflation one supposedly has “evidence” for are not models that lead to the kind of multiverse of different physical laws that Coyne needs for his argument with religion. I should make it clear that I’m on Coyne’s side in the argument of evolution vs. religion, but scientists arguing on the basis of science should take care that they’re using good science if they don’t want to discredit Read More ›

Viruses hijack “junk” (non-coding) RNA, turns out many non-coding functions “have not been identified”

From Nicholas S. Heaton & Bryan R. Cullen at Nature: Long non-coding RNAs (non-coding RNAs more than 200 nucleotides long) have roles in many aspects of cell biology4,5. In the nucleus, they are involved in transcriptional regulation and remodelling of chromosomes, and in the cytoplasm, they regulate microRNA function as well as the translation of mRNAs to generate proteins. But there are scores of lncRNAs whose functions have not been identified, so there are potentially many more roles to uncover. … If it is indeed true that viral replication and normal host-cell physiology have major differences in terms of the metabolic intermediates and enzymes they require, then exciting possibilities for the development of broadly acting antiviral therapies clearly exist. More generally, Read More ›

Notes from Wikipedia, the information age’s public landfill: Cofounder thinks ID article “appallingly biased”

Yes. But so? Any topic you didn’t know much about could be handled in an “appallingly biased” way on Wikipedia. From David Klinghoffer at Evolution News & Views: Wikipedia Co-Founder Blasts “Appallingly Biased” Wikipedia Entry on Intelligent Design When it comes to intelligent design, Wikipedia and its axe-grinding editors are ridiculously biased and unfair. And guess what? Even Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger agrees. He wrote as much last week on the Talk page for the Wiki article on ID, under the heading, “My $0.02 on the issue of bias”: As the originator of and the first person to elaborate Wikipedia’s neutrality policy, and as an agnostic who believes intelligent design to be completely wrong, I just have to say that Read More ›

Our First Duty

Further to “Will Your Conscience be a Casualty in the Progressive’s War on Science?” Please see below and be reminded of Orwell’s famous aphorism:  “we have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”   https://www.facebook.com/TheDailySignalNews/videos/967580886741197/  

Austin Ruse: Post-modern science hits the streets

Running and throwing projectiles. From O’Leary for News at Salvo: Family values activist Austin Ruse’s new book, Fake Science: Exposing the Left’s Skewed Statistics, Fuzzy Facts, and Dodgy Data (Regnery, 2017), offers a look at a world growing increasingly hostile to evidence-based reasoning. We have not discovered better reasoning methods; rather, many people seem to have decided that reasoning is not relevant to our life together, and perhaps not relevant to the life of the mind generally. … For instance, as Ruse chronicles, gay activists have claimed that evidence from genetics justifies their demand for a ban on therapy to change unwanted homosexual attractions.6 But leaving aside the tenuousness of their scientific claims, one must ask, Why is the client—in Read More ›

From an expert walled up behind the 30-metre Oblivion Wall, we learn the causes of “science denial” …

Neurologist Steven Novella tells us, A recent publication of a series of studies looking at the roots of science rejection is a nice cap on this research: Not All Skepticism Is Equal: Exploring the Ideological Antecedents of Science Acceptance and Rejection. The researchers looked primarily at three forms of rejection of science: climate change denial, vaccine rejection, and skepticism about GM technology. They also looked at a number of possible correlating factors: political ideology, moral purity, religiosity, support for science, faith in science, and scientific literacy. There are a lot of details here, and if you want to delve in deeply it’s best to just read the original study (it’s pretty accessible). I will give a summary of the overall findings Read More ›

What is “information”?

Information, of course, is notoriously a concept that has many senses of meaning. As it is central to the design inference, let us look (again) at defining it. We can dispose of one sense right off, Shannon was not directly interested in information but in information-carrying capacity; that is why his metric will peak for a truly random signal, which has as a result minimal redundancy. And, we can also see that the bit measure commonly seen in ICT circles or in our PC memories etc, is actually this measure, 1 k bit is 1,024 = 2^10 binary digits of storage or transmission capacity. One binary digit or bit being a unit of information storing one choice between a pair Read More ›

PLOS’s top five human evolution discoveries of 2017

Here, their top house picks: 1) A new Homo naledi fossil nicknamed Neo 2) Ancient human DNA discovered in dirt 3) Homo sapiens fossils from Morocco that are over 300,000 years old! 4) Humans arrived in Australia 65,000 years ago 5) A new species of ancient ape, Nyanzapithecus alesi More. Reasons for rankings, of course, provided. See also: What we know and don’t know about human evolution

At Times Higher: Peer review an “ineffective and unworthy” institution, some reforms proposed

From Les Hatton and Gregory Warr at Times Higher: First, peer review is self-evidently useful in protecting established paradigms and disadvantaging challenges to entrenched scientific authority. Second, peer review, by controlling access to publication in the most prestigious journals helps to maintain the clearly recognised hierarchies of journals, of researchers, and of universities and research institutes. Peer reviewers should be experts in their field and will therefore have allegiances to leaders in their field and to their shared scientific consensus; conversely, there will be a natural hostility to challenges to the consensus, and peer reviewers have substantial power of influence (extending virtually to censorship) over publication in elite (and even not-so-elite) journals. … However, for any innovations in scientific publication Read More ›