Stephen "Skip" Evans was a culture warrior, atheist activist, Darwinism apologist, NCSE Network Project Director, Science Pub founder, "Project Steve" creator, Church/State separation activist, founder of Wisconsin Citizens for Science, and contributor at The Panda's Thumb. A true Culture Warrior if ever there was one.
Apparently, the most memorable thing he ever did was to steal the dissertation of notable creationist Kent Hovind. At least that's what one would be led to believe by reading the brief memorials offered by his friends PZ Myers, Ed Brayton, Wesley Elsberry, and Nick Matzke. Not one of his fellow culture warriors bothered to send even the most cursory condolences to Skip's family.
Glenn Branch, Deputy Director of the NCSE eulogized him in his newsletter. For some reason Skip's death received second billing status on the newsletter because I guess "conversion of a climate skeptic" was deemed to be more important.
Since his friends and colleagues won't do it, I'll do it for them.
My condolences to Skip's family.
A core set of muscle proteins are found in jellies and sponges.
Evolution is not the creation of "endless forms most beautiful", it is the unfolding of a beautifully designed, pre-existing program.
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?
Matzke joins the ranks of world famous population control alarmist nut jobs like Paul "England will not exist in the year 2000" Ehrlich and Al "ice caps will disappear by 2014" Gore.
As coauthor of a Nature review article entitled “Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere” Matzke engages in copious group fear mongering in advance of the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio.
So what are the scary predictions endorsed by Matzke?
…a world dominated by cows and corn fields
…humans…fighting each other for ever-diminishing nonrenewable resources
…rising temperatures and sea levels…
…tropical insects and diseases…
…ecosystems consisting mostly of human-tolerant, easily-dispersable weeds
…a world without any wildness left.
Well, ok, Matzke is not as scary as Paul "coastlines will be evacuated because of dead fish" Ehrlich and IPCC Chief "Himalayas will melt" Pauchari. In fact, Matzke's dystopia of plentiful beef, corn, milk, warm climates and balmy tropical oceans sounds rather pleasant to this skeptic. But obviously, he considers this a dire catastrophe in the making.
So I'll make a prediction of my own. Matzke will offer a progressive solution to the problem which will include reducing consumption, and population control. Hey look! I was right!
"If humans decide to take appropriate action – conserve natural ecosystems, engage in sustainable agriculture and energy production, flatten out population growth and resource consumption, and halt global warming – there is hope that the state shift could be avoided. It’s up to us."
Well, even if the predictions of alarmist nut jobs rarely ever come true, it's comforting to know that the alarmists themselves are completely predictable.
Wealthy Atheist Harry Lonsdale offered a $50,000 challenge to origin of life researchers to come up with novel ideas for explaining the origin of life.
Since no novel ideas were presented, the first prize was then given to John Sutherland and Matthew Powner who will use the money to build yet another big Rube Goldberg machine that tries to turn dirt into RNA.
Other winners will be building big pools filled with RNA juice, simulated hot springs, and fatty bubbles.
You just gotta love the guy. He treated the culture war with as much respect and dignity as it deserves, which to John meant absolute scathing irreverence and mockery.
"Thank you for allowing me to instigate all of you into so freely exposing your monumental ignorance, your bigotry and your "prescribed," "born that way," congenital "groupthink" mentalities for all to see and savor. The pleasure has been mine, all mine.
It is hard to believe isn't it?
I love it so!"
This is fascinating. Systems biologists have discovered the ancestral mechanism of carbon fixation. This is the most basic cornerstone of life – no fixed carbon, no life. A few things to take note of:
•This ancestral mechanism diverged into the six modern mechanisms.
•The divergences in mechanisms relate to key branching events in evolutionary development.
•The ancestral mechanism was robust, redundant, multi-layered, and poised to exploit future environmental changes such as increased oxygen levels.
Viewed under the mindset of abiogenesis, biologists see the picture of early life as klunky, unrefined and highly unstable. As researcher Eric Smith says, "It seems likely that the earliest cells were rickety assemblies whose parts were constantly malfunctioning and breaking down".
But if we instead view this under the mindset of design, we actually see some very ingenious design principles at work. Mainly, this is an amazingly adaptive system. Check it out:
•Redundancy – one system breaks down, another is there to do the job.
•Multi-layered – several different mechanisms in play simultaneously.
•Support for future contingencies – ie: designed for anaerobic environment but ready to exploit an aerobic environment.
This was a robust system that was prepared to adapt to many environmental variables. Not only would this system facilitate future evolutionary divergence, and novel processes like photosynthesis, but it also seems geared to support protein based biology.
It was a major stroke of luck for dirt to accomplish this all by itself.
Engineers, however, will recognize this as just good, sensible, intelligent design.
Not science as a method, but science as an enterprise. Everybody who's ever given money to cancer research should really be pissed about this. [HT Mike Gene]
Scientists are no different from most people. Dangle big wads of cash or prestige in front of them and they'll do just about anything to get it. Here's some key quotes:
During a decade as head of global cancer research at Amgen, C. Glenn Begley identified 53 "landmark" publications — papers in top journals, from reputable labs — for his team to reproduce. Begley sought to double-check the findings before trying to build on them for drug development.
Result: 47 of the 53 could not be replicated.
Note this is not a random sampling. It represents what the head of Amgen research thought was "the best of the best" in cancer research.
Scientists at Bayer did not have much more success. In a 2011 paper titled, "Believe it or not," they analyzed in-house projects that built on "exciting published data" from basic science studies. "Often, key data could not be reproduced,"…Of 47 cancer projects at Bayer during 2011, less than one-quarter could reproduce previously reported findings, despite the efforts of three or four scientists working full time for up to a year.
You know, when supposed cold-fusion experiments turn out to not be replicable it usually means public disgrace. Why is there no disgrace in cancer research, especially when the public is pouring money into the enterprise?
Bayer and Amgen found that the prestige of a journal was no guarantee a paper would be solid.
Apparently upwards of 75% of the time in some fields. So much for peer review.
"We went through the paper line by line, figure by figure," said Begley. "I explained that we re-did their experiment 50 times and never got their result. He said they'd done it six times and got this result once, but put it in the paper because it made the best story. It's very disillusioning."
Mmmm. Smell the hubris.
On Tuesday, a committee of the National Academy of Sciences heard testimony that the number of scientific papers that had to be retracted increased more than tenfold over the last decade; the number of journal articles published rose only 44 percent. Ferric Fang of the University of Washington, speaking to the panel, said he blamed a hypercompetitive academic environment that fosters poor science and even fraud, as too many researchers compete for diminishing funding.
This needs no commentary. I just wanted to say "Ferric Fang" is one of the coolest names ever. Iron Tooth! Awesome.
"If you can write it up and get it published you're not even thinking of reproducibility," said Ken Kaitin, director of the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. "You make an observation and move on. There is no incentive to find out it was wrong."
Science without testing and falsification is not science. It's just observation and hypothesis – also known as speculation. Karl Popper went as far as to call it pseudoscience. Now we have an entire scientific enterprise that is taking your tax money and your donations not for research, but to speculate.
Some public disgrace should be in order.
We often hear talk of scientists claiming that evolution is a purposeless process. Some claim that purpose is an illusion because of evolution by natural selection. For example, Professor Larry Moran, a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Toronto has this to say:
“One of the most astonishing discoveries of modern science is that the universe does not exhibit any signs of "purpose" or "goals." This single conclusion is probably more responsible for the profound conflict between science and religion than any other. The attractiveness of religion was that it seemed to answer the "why" questions that science, presumably, could not answer. Now, modern science tells us that the question was meaningless.”
Among his various "cures" for the planet's fever are:
1) A "meat patch" that makes you puke when you eat meat.
2) Hormones that stunt your children's growth.
3) Drugs that make you want to write checks.
4) Genetically engineering humans with "cat eyes" so we don't need light bulbs.
Of course, Matthew assures us that no one will be forced to do any of these things. The government will simply set limits to how much carbon your family can produce or set drastic limits on consumption. Then you get all the freedom you need to decide whether you want to have 2 really small children, or one medium sized child, or perhaps one large child who will be required to wear a "meat patch".
Progressivism! Enhancing your freedom – by limiting your freedom!
Kornbelt 888 asks:
"Isn't it about time someone created a junk yard dog style outfit like Eugenie Scott's racket, except on the other side, to be a continuous hammer on the heads of the Darwinista liars, deceivers, and disinformationists with respect to public schools?
I say yes."
I respond: What possible good could come from that?
Kornbelt, you might just as well start a watchdog organization that debunks and exposes the failings of the Taliban. And for all your hard work, the next time they behead some woman in a soccer stadium they will blame your organization for corrupting her.
It's not like you're dealing with deliberative, rational, critical thinking, honest truth seekers. The folks at the NCSE imagine themselves to be some self-appointed warrior class, sworn to the cause of protecting society. They are entrenched, indoctrinated, dedicated, and they really, really like what they do. You aren't going to change that.
Kornbelt, the only thing to do is teach your children to be honest men and women of good character. Teach them to value truth and humility, and to eschew duplicity and bigotry. Teach them the 10 signs of intellectual honesty. The Eugenies, the Gleicks, the Matzkes, the Rosenhouses, the Hesses will become such a stark contrast that no honest young person would ever in a million years take them seriously. These papier mache warriors really are nothing to worry about. And they'll be gone anyway in 30 or 40 years or so.
And it helps to laugh heartily at all the culture warriors while we're waiting for them to leave the planet. They are, after all, little more than overgrown children playing dwarves and trolls in the woods with styrofoam swords. Utterly harmless. Utterly silly. Instead of fashioning our own styrofoam swords and cardboard shields, I humbly suggest instead we make some popcorn, set out some lawn chairs and watch the show. They are not dangerous.
As Jesus said of another famous culture warrior, they would have no power were it not given to them from above.
This is an interesting statement. You often hear or read about this in conversations and debates surrounding the existence of God. A person may ask another person “why are you an atheist” and the atheist may reply, “purely because there is no evidence for God”.
Apparently, the fortunes of Dawkins' ancestors were built on the backs of slaves. You see there is a reason for this – evolutionary psychology. Our selfish genes drive us to behave in ways that propagate them.