Archive for April, 2010
Fodor is a philosopher who is a strong critic of the modern synthesis emphasis on selection as the primary mechanism for evolution. Pigliucci is also a critic but thinks Fodor goes way too far. Here's my take on the clash of the titans.
You are a space alien, minding your business, cruising the galaxy when you encounter an anomolous object. Upon inspecting the object you notice that it contains a gold phonograph disc with symbols etched upon the cover, which is electroplated with pure Uranium 238.
The disc was designed 100,000 years earlier by an Earth astronomer who anticipated this momentous occasion, and sent the disc into space aboard a spacecraft. The astronomer was counting on two things. First, that an advanced spacefaring civilization would find it; and second, that they would have surpassed a developmental milestone which would allow their civilization to determine that the object and the disc were purposefully designed.
What developmental milestone did the astronomer hope that your alien civilization had achieved?
A) Invention of the phonograph.
B) Development of symbolic language.
C) Invention of radiometric dating.
D) Development of critical thinking.
E) Invention of science.
Answer below the fold.
Michael Behe wrote A malodorous argument for Darwinian evolution. He notes that evolutionary biologist John Avise wrote the book Inside the Human Genome: A Case for Non-Intelligent Design. Behe lauds Avise for his expertise within his field. Behe also writes:
Avise tries to steal three bases on a bunt. He claims that both [Darwinian] evolution and intelligent design can explain the functional parts of the genome, but only evolution can explain the dysfunctional parts (because a beneficent God would not have made those).
Prior to this Behe had written that the "new book shows all the intellectual savvy of a typical late-night college dormroom bull session." I did not read the book but if Behe's depiction of Avise's exclusivity explanation for dysfunctional parts is accurate then so is a lack of intellectual savvy particularly as it relates to this point. Avise's expertise does not extend to reading a divine mind. His view of what a beneficent God would do is no more valid than the views of one who wraps hamburgers at McDonalds. He's not even a theologian is he? But you don't have to be to sell books which is the likely objective after all.
This thursday night.
Post details: Arriving At Intelligence Through The Corridors Of Reason (Part II) appears at The ID Report. From the first paragraph:
In fact the term 'junk DNA' is now seen by many an expert as somewhat of a misnomer since much of what was originally categorized as such has turned out to be pivotal for DNA stability and the regulation of gene expression. In his book Nature's Probability And Probability's Nature author Donald Johnson has done us all a service by bringing these points to the fore. He further notes that since junk DNA would put an unnecessary energetic burden on cells during the process of replication, it stands to reason that it would more likely be eliminated through selective pressures. That is, if the Darwinian account of life is to be believed. "It would make sense" Johnson writes "that those useless nucleotides would be removed from the genome long before they had a chance to form something with a selective advantage….there would be no advantage in directing energy to useless structures"
True junk would be metabolically wasteful and give rise to selective pressure for its elimination. Any advantageous evolutionary change would have to exceed functional neutrality (zero) to the same extent that the wasteful disadvantageous junk exceeded zero in the opposite direction would it not?
Stuart Kauffman wrote Opportunity: Or How It Makes Final Theory Close To Impossible.
Recall that a Darwinian preadaptation is a feature of an organism of no use in the current selective enviornment that may become advantageous in a different environment.
Preadaption. It has a foresight-like quality to it. But of course we're not talking intelligent design. Oh no. That simply will not do. Actual specific examples of
front loading preadaption were mentioned in another blog- swim bladders from the lungs of lung fish for one. Kauffman argues the point that the emergence of the biosphere and some of natural history is beyond the sufficiency of an explanation grounded in natural law. More at the link.
Scientists have identified a previously unknown type of ancient human through analysis of DNA from a finger bone unearthed in a Siberian cave.
It appears to have a mitochondrial genome which diverged from neanderthalensis and sapiens about 1 million years ago.
A Jet Propulsion Laboratory worker who distributed religious DVDs on the job is suing the JPL for discrimination after he was demoted.
David Coppedge's lawsuit filed last week in Los Angeles County says he was demoted last April for sharing his views in the workplace. He wants a court order allowing him to discuss his beliefs.
Coppedge is an information technology specialist on the Cassini space mission exploring Saturn. He's also a Christian who promotes the concept that an intelligent being created the universe.
A soluble factor that influences mating in tetrahymena called factor active in conjugation (FAC) has been identified.
In the experiment, FAC was removed by washing the co-stimulated tetrahymena and resuspending them in fresh media. Placing the cells in a FAC-free environment resulted in a delay in the time it takes for the cells to pair. Additionally, the delay was not seen if the washed cells were returned to media containing FAC.
There is no scientific explanation possible for free will. True free will, if it exists, is inherently supernatural. By its very definition it involves circumventing nature. The universe's differential equation is leading you to perform action A, but you rise up against nature's next time-step and choose B instead.
Hey nature, you didn't see that one coming didja?, you dumb old broad!
There is no way out for science. Free will is supernatural. All science can ever say is that there is no free will, it is only an illusion. And they are are usually loath to admit it.
Nature can exhibit that which science is incapable of either confirming or debunking. Free will is a rational and reasonable idea. A theologian could make the argument that free will is a necessary component of a reality which includes a divine creator and that it is inherent to Judeo-Christian doctrines. On the other hand a biologist would be hard pressed to devise an experiment which effectively debunks the concept. What physical mechanism would give rise to it or conversely confirm its illusory nature?
In the previous post Michael Ruse was quoted:
Natural selection working on unguided mutations cannot guarantee the emergence of anything. It has no direction.
Natural selection cannot even explain the emergence of free will except in a very abstract way that does not note a physical mechanism and a resulting aha moment. Dogmatic statements about free will will not disappear from scientific publications. There is too much at stake from a culture war perspective.
The Chronicle of Higher Education features letters authored by Michael Ruse, Alvin Plantinga and others along with comments containing sharp exchanges over evolution, intelligent design and more. I'll comment on the following remark made by Ruse and leave the remainder for your exploration:
Natural selection working on unguided mutations cannot guarantee the emergence of anything. It has no direction. In that sense, it is all a matter of chance, and this is a scientific not a metaphysical claim. As Stephen Jay Gould used to say, if the dinosaurs had not gone extinct thanks to that comet hitting the earth, we almost certainly would not be here. We should literally thank "our lucky stars" for our existence.
Selection is not a directionless rudder. Provide biological context and you also have constraint with respect to parameters of change. An initial genome and cell defines the nature of reproductive processes. How is the make-up of that genome irrelevant to the direction of changes subsequently resulting? What happens when natural selection does not have mutated genes to work on- all a matter of chance?
Last week, we learned that a father in Tennessee is fighting to ban a high school biology textbook describing creationism as “the biblical myth that the universe was created by the Judeo-Christian God in 7 days"
I am admittedly not an evolutionary biologist, but before dismissing the case out of hand, and/or reacting with the oft-heard "religious fundamentalists are at it again" — as many of my secularist friends have — let us weigh the issue against the backdrop of church-state separation in the U.S.
I wish we had a lulz category
RICHARD DAWKINS, the atheist campaigner, is planning a legal ambush to have the Pope arrested during his state visit to Britain “for crimes against humanity”.
This reminds me of his other blunder, when he supported , but later regretted, his support for a bizarre legal petition .