I was talking with someone about all the evil things going on in the world, and that one of the reasons I like to discuss ID is that it offers a wonderful escape from all of that, at least for a while. Also, I find it intellectually stimulating. [I forgot to mention that I also find biology to be a deeply fascinating subject.] Read the rest of this entry »
Archive for September, 2008
Robert Deyes posted Post details: Darwinian Universes And Colliding Branes: Eschewing A Cosmic Singularity at The ID Report. Deyes makes this observation about fine tuning at the linked blog entry:
"Many of the most fundamental characteristics of our cosmos- the relative strengths of gravity, electromagnetism and the forces that operate inside atomic nuclei as well as masses and relative abundances of different particles- are so finely tuned that if just one of these were even slightly different, life as we know it couldn't exist. If the so-called weak nuclear interaction were a tiny bit stronger or weaker than it is, for example, stars wouldn't blow up in the mammoth supernovas that spread elements like carbon and oxygen out into space and without those elements, there would be no water and no organic molecules. If the strong nuclear force were just one-half of 1% stronger or weaker, stars could not make carbon or oxygen….Because there is no known law that requires those forces to have the values they do, scientists figure that there must be another explanation for how we got so lucky"
From The uniqueness of biological self-organization: challenging the Darwinian paradigm by J. B. Edelmann and M. J. Denton.
Abstract: Here we discuss the challenge posed by self-organization to the Darwinian conception of evolution. As we point out, natural selection can only be the major creative agency in evolution if all or most of the adaptive complexity manifest in living organisms is built up over many generations by the cumulative selection of naturally occurring small, random mutations or variants, i.e., additive, incremental steps over an extended period of time. Biological self-organization—witnessed classically in the folding of a protein, or in the formation of the cell membrane—is a fundamentally different means of generating complexity. We agree that self-organizing systems may be fine-tuned by selection and that self-organization may be therefore considered a complementary mechanism to natural selection as a causal agency in the evolution of life. But we argue that if self-organization proves to be a common mechanism for the generation of adaptive order from the molecular to the organismic level, then this will greatly undermine the Darwinian claim that natural selection is the major creative agency in evolution. We also point out that although complex self-organizing systems are easy to create in the electronic realm of cellular automata, to date translating in silico simulations into real material structures that self-organize into complex forms from local interactions between their constituents has not proved easy. This suggests that self-organizing systems analogous to those utilized by biological systems are at least rare and may indeed represent, as pre-Darwinists believed, a unique ascending hierarchy of natural forms. Such a unique adaptive hierarchy would pose another major challenge to the current Darwinian view of evolution, as it would mean the basic forms of life are necessary features of the order of nature and that the major pathways of evolution are determined by physical law, or more specifically by the self-organizing properties of biomatter, rather than natural selection.
A Wall Street Journal article entitled Look Who's Irrational Now begins:
"You can't be a rational person six days of the week and put on a suit and make rational decisions and go to work and, on one day of the week, go to a building and think you're drinking the blood of a 2,000-year-old space god," comedian and atheist Bill Maher said earlier this year on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien."
On the "Saturday Night Live" season debut last week, homeschooling families were portrayed as fundamentalists with bad haircuts who fear biology. Actor Matt Damon recently disparaged Sarah Palin by referring to a transparently fake email that claimed she believed that dinosaurs were Satan's lizards. And according to prominent atheists like Richard Dawkins, traditional religious belief is "dangerously irrational." From Hollywood to the academy, nonbelievers are convinced that a decline in traditional religious belief would lead to a smarter, more scientifically literate and even more civilized populace.
Mike Gene posted an entry entitled Gap-Centrism at The Design Matrix. Mike references a blog entry at An Evangelical Dialogue on Evolution called The Origins Debate through the Lens of Piagetian Theory. From Marlowe C. Embree's blog piece:
To a Piagetian theorist, intellectual growth and development come through the refinement of so-called schemata. A schema is a way of thinking about or understanding the world, a “lens” or “window” through which one views reality. Thus, schemata are like “mini-theories” or “mini-paradigms”, and can include so-called “metanarratives” or “superstories” that provide a comprehensive explanation of all of reality. As such, religious (and secular) views of the nature of ultimate, metaphysical reality are types of schemata.
What I'm really interested in is whether God could have made the world in a different way; that is, whether the necessity of logical simplicity leaves any freedom at all.- Albert Einstein
Einstein seems to have had Nature's constants in mind when he mused about constraints imposed by logical simplicity. Small adjustments in constant values could have resulted in a very different universe and not one hospitable to life. The musing has an unmistakable telic aspect to it. Is it even reasonable for us to expect that an empirical approach would yield answers to questions about ranges of constant values if we don't discern the initial cause for our resulting universe?
In the blog entry Indicators of Design TT commenter Rock stated:
Computer scientists have known for sometime, at least for 60 years, that simple systems are capable of universal computation, given only as much “programming” as is required by a statement of initial conditions, an adumbration (“netlist”) of the material properties of the computing elements, and a dynamical law over all.
I found an Uncommon Descent blog entry I had come across some time ago and subsequently forgotten. Gil Dodgen wrote Writing Computer Programs by Random Mutation and Natural Selection. There were a number of interesting comments and numbered among the commenters was at least one regular TT commenter.
Teleomechanist features a blog entry entitled Front-loaded evolution. It contains some noteworthy remarks. Crediting Mike Gene, this quote appears:
We observe ultraconserved, ultraselected sequences with no apparent effect on fitness of the organism. The four sequences that were knocked out in this study had no visible immediate effect on fitness in the mice. Interestingly, one of the sequences (uc467) is found in the reptile, Carolina anole. Use this site to blast the uc467 sequence in eukatyotes. It would be interesting to see what the function of this sequence is in the Carolina anole genome and whether deletion of the sequence will have any effect on fitness.
It is thus not inconceivable that some of the sequences in the proposed Universal Genome in the Origin of Metazoa might have no immediate effect on fitness, but still have a function by acting as a reservoir of genetic material on which variation inducing mechanisms such as sequence duplication, somatic hypermutation, gene conversion and homologous recombination can act upon during periods of selection. Intracellular quality control mechanisms then act as selection mechanisms to keep the sequences in tact, be it as a result of a redundant mechanism or an EAM mechanism.
Suzan Mazur's interview of Chris McKay bears the descriptive title NASA Humanist Chris McKay: Where Darwinism Fails. McKay is a scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center where he researches the evolution of the solar system as well as the origin of life. From the linked article:
Suzan Mazur: What about other mechanisms of evolution, self-organization and self-assembly? They precede natural selection?
Chris McKay: Something had to precede Darwinian natural selection. The Darwinian paradigm breaks down in two obvious ways.
First, and most clear, Darwinian selection cannot be responsible for the origin of life. Secondly, there is some thought that Darwinian selection cannot fully explain the rise of complexity at the molecular level.
Suzan Mazur: So you're saying Darwinian natural selection sets in at what point?
Chris McKay: I think it must set in after life has started. After there's a genome, genotype. That's the one obvious place where Darwinian natural selection fails – is in the origin of life. It can't be Darwinian all the way down.
Michael Reiss, a biologist and ordained Church of England clergyman, agreed to step down from his position with the national academy of science after its officers decided that his comments had damaged its reputation.
His resignation comes after a campaign by senior Royal Society Fellows who were angered by Professor Reiss’s suggestion that science teachers should treat creationist beliefs “not as a misconception but as a world view”.
This from the article Royal Society's Michael Reiss resigns over creationism row.
Seems like an overreaction to me. Does Reiss's resignation under pressure really serve the interest of science? Does it further the interests of a free and open society?
Frederica Mathewes-Green says this in When Mother Comes Home:
While I’m not very informed about the Intelligent Design debate, the idea sounds inoffensive enough: Scientists cannot prove there is a Designer, and neither can they prove there’s no Designer, so why not leave the question open? Instead the concept of Intelligent Design has been greeted with outrage and the case is considered closed. Clearly, it struck a nerve.
The previous thread to this subject for the Obama campaign's responses to these questions has grown too lengthy to follow and has diverted widely to unrelated political subjects. Which is okay to a point, but in this thread I'll work harder to keep things on topic.
Senator John McCain's campaign has submitted their responses to those same 14 science policy questions, and those responses are now listed side-by-side with Obama's at Science Debate 2008. These display some strong contrasts that should serve to inform the public fairly well about how each of the candidates would approach the important issues of science, education and technology as we head into the second decade of the 21st century, with our economy is tatters and continuing to spectacularly fail on an almost daily basis (Merill Lynch and Lehman's both went down this weekend, just a week after the the nation's primary mortgage lenders were nationalized due to criminal bankruptcy).
Please use this thread for discussion of the actual questions and the contrasts (if any) between the campaigns' responses to them. Thanks!
Top-Down Analysis of Temporal Hierarchy in Biochemical Reaction Networks is authored by Neema Jamshidi and Bernhard Ø. Palsson and appears in PLOS Computational Biology. The paper discusses the development of top-down investigative approaches; the objective being the development of "a “systems” understanding of how networks operate dynamically." The abstract:
Stephen Barr authored On the Edge of Discovery. Barr begins explaining:
The Higgs particle is also a Higgs wave—you all remember that quantum mechanics says that waves and particles are the same thing in a different guise. The Higgs wave is a wave in the Higgs field. All of space is permeated by this Higgs field—just as all of space is permeated by electric fields, magnetic fields, and gravitational fields. Compared to the electric fields, magnetic fields, and gravitational fields all around us, however, the Higgs field is enormously strong. This Higgs field plays a very important role in the world: It accounts for the fact that most particles have mass. If you could turn off the Higgs field somehow, then most types of particles (including the good old electron, neutrinos, and quarks) would lose their mass. The world would be a vastly different place.