Archive for the 'Random Stuff' Category
Please continue the conversation here, meatheads.
When Nature announced that biologists had artificially created a jellyfish I was very excited. Jellies represent some of the earliest life on the planet and a synthetic version could offer some insight into life's origins. How in the world did they turn rat cells into a jellyfish? Did they find a way to trigger some ancient expression mechanism? Stem cells? Genetic engineering?
No. Turns out that some Cal-Tech dorks glued some rat heart cells to a piece of silicon. Put it in water and zap it with a pulsing electric field and it wiggles – a phenomenon that has been well known for decades.
Now I like bath toys as much as the next guy but really… if this can make it into Nature why can't I seem to find funding for my own experiment?
Is there a teleology-related topic that has caught your interest, but we haven't really touched on it here at Telic Thoughts? Would you welcome the possibility of writing a guest blog post about it?
Then this is the thread for you!
Just write up a short summary of the topic you wish to post on. I'll look over the ideas and call attention and hopefully select one or a few ideas to greenlight. I'll add in a few guidelines to let you know what I'm looking for here – common sense stuff, but it helps to list it anyway.
* As said, your topic should be teleology-related at least in the broad sense. A popular focus is typically on teleology in evolution or natural history, but I'd also be interested in discussions of distinctly human teleology. Are you a transhumanist who thinks mankind shall in the future be something like Q Continuum from Star Trek? "That counts," says I. Also, "I hope we'll have a better name than Q Continuum."
* Do you have a low opinion of gnus? So do I, but this shouldn't be the topic of any potential guest post. Really, thorough criticisms of that particular cult have been done to death.
* Is your topic not directly related to teleology, but does argue for an alternate (non-Darwinian) understanding of evolutionary mechanisms? Quite possibly interesting.
There you go. Have additional questions? Ask them in the thread.
From the "I think I missed this the first time" pile is this 2009 article explaining the daily application of evolution to common security issues. From the article.
"One strategy to reduce risk would be to approach the ATM cautiously and spend a lot of time looking around while there. By doing so, you will spend more time in an exposed position," he said. "An alternative strategy would be to run in and run out as quickly as possible. We see evidence that animals use both strategies in nature. Some species are more vigilant in risky areas, while others are less vigilant, and by being less vigilant, they are able to reduce their exposure to predators because they decrease the amount of time in risky areas. Evolution and the diversity of life show us there are many strategies to solve problems and respond to risk."
It's a remarkable article, really. I mean… … nah, let's just call it remarkable and leave it at that for now.
Just noticed this over at Uncommon Descent. I'll highlight one part of his article that stood out to me.
My critic seemed to think that anyone who would agree with this statement was necessarily a creationist, if not a Biblical fundamentalist that believed the Earth was 6,000 years old. On the contrary, I'm an evolutionist. I'm committed to naturalism in science, and I believe that radioactive dating and other evidence shows the Earth to be about 4.6 billion years old. The reason I'm an evolutionist is that science is based largely on empirical evidence. The fossil record shows progressive change in life through time. The farther back we go in time, the more that life diverges from present day forms. If we do nothing but look at the fossils, we see a process of natural change, or evolution.
There is no scientific reason that one-hundred percent of biologist and geologists should not sign the Dissent from Darwinism statement. Who can disagree that "careful examination of the evidence" is indicated for every scientific theory? And there is plenty of skepticism in the scientific literature regarding the ability of natural selection alone to account for the changes we infer from the fossil record. A 2009 paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science began with the words "I reject the Darwinian assumption…[of] a single common ancestor." A 2005 review paper published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution noted that "the many intermediate forms hypothesized by Darwin" were "missing." These are but two examples that illustrate a pervasive theme of skeptical deliberation.
None of this is an argument for supernaturalism. There are many scientific alternatives to natural selection. Endosymbiotic theory proposes that multi-celled organisms arose not through natural selection, but through the interaction of single-celled bacteria. We beginning to become aware that horizontal gene transfer may have played an important role in evolution. We don't know how life began, and we don't understand all the mechanisms by which life evolved on Earth. And we most certainly are not aware of what we don't know. It is relatively easy for us to assess the extent of our knowledge, but impossible to fathom the extent of our ignorance.
An interesting perspective.
A classic example is human birth weight. Newborns of intermediate size are more likely to survive than newborns that are extremely large or extremely small. In lieu of driving organisms to be bigger and faster over time, the 'Goldilocks' model — also known as stabilizing selection — favors moderation, the authors explained. But for the vast majority of organismal traits, this pattern is the exception, not the rule. "Rarely is it the case that the individuals that survive and reproduce the best are the ones in the middle," Kingsolver said.
The result is puzzling because the conventional wisdom is that most creatures are well adapted to the environments in which they live. "When we look at nature, we see all these amazing ways species are well-adapted to their lifestyles and habitats," Kingsolver said. "Yet the organisms that are bigger, faster, still do the best in terms of survival and reproduction. Why aren't they already just the right size or speed, or pretty close to it?" he asked.
The answer is largely, "I 'unno. Maybe it's…" But still, worth a read.
Within one generation, no less. From this 2008 article:
It's a miracle! Blind cavefish, despite having adapted to their lightless environment for more than a million years, can produce sighted offspring in just a single generation, a new study reveals.
The ability was discovered when researchers mated fish from distinct populations that had been isolated in separate caves.
In some cases the first-generation offspring of such unions could see.
Anyway, some thoughts below the cut.
Because there's currently no Open Thread on the front page, here we go.
Polite, off-topic discussion ahoy. Also, that girl looks like a younger Eugenie Scott.
Mike Gene has come up with the 10 signs of intellectual honesty, which is a very nice thing to strive to be. Unfortunately, most of us over rate how intellectually honest we really are. And even if we were completely intellectually honest, we are still fallible human beings with a finite amount of knowledge.
Of interest to those among us – like me – who are fascinated by HGT in general. I was just asking Mike about this sort of thing, so this is a bit of serendipity.
CHICAGO — If a human cell and a bacterial cell met at a speed-dating event, they would never be expected to exchange phone numbers, much less genetic material. In more scientific terms, a direct transfer of DNA has never been recorded from humans to bacteria.
Until now. Northwestern Medicine researchers have discovered the first evidence of a human DNA fragment in a bacterial genome – in this case, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacterium that causes gonorrhea. Further research showed the gene transfer appears to be a recent evolutionary event.
Oleg(t) has dismissed most of us ID proponents as being nothing but a bunch of amateurs. I won't deny his accusation. When it comes to the field of biology, most of us are amateurs. (Of course, when it comes to recognizing other conscious minds and products of intelligent design, I think we are all experts.) But I will deny the relevance of his accusation. You see, the experts of biology, Dawkins, Coyne, Ken Miller, and others, keep writing popular books for us amateurs, in order to convince us of the truth of evolution. Why? Apparently they think we are capable of evaluating the evidence if it is presented to us properly. If they think we are capable of evaluating the evidence, then I see no need to listen to the accusation of another rank amateur telling us that we are not capable of evaluating the evidence.