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Uncommon Descent
Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Study: Space dust may transport life between worlds
Thu, 23 Nov 2017 20:38:40 +0000

some of the coldest, darkest dust in space/ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech

One eventually gets used to science claims with a lot of 'may's in them. From ScienceDaily:

Fast-moving flows of interplanetary dust that continually bombard our planet's atmosphere could deliver tiny organisms from far-off worlds, or send Earth-based organisms to other planets, according to the research.

The dust streams could collide with biological particles in Earth's atmosphere with enough energy to knock them into space, a scientist has suggested.

Such an event could enable bacteria and other forms of life to make their way from one planet in the solar system to another and perhaps beyond.

The finding suggests that large asteroid impacts may not be the sole mechanism by which life could transfer between planets, as was previously thought.

Okay, but we don't know about life anywhere apart from Earth. Even Mars research has seen a recent setback.

The researcher, Argun Berera, found that powerful flows of space dust - which can move at up to 70 km a second - could collide with particles in our atmospheric system and that 'small particles existing at 150 km or higher above Earth's surface could be knocked beyond the limit of Earth's gravity by space dust and eventually reach other planets. The same mechanism could enable the exchange of atmospheric particles between distant planets.' Paper. (paywall) '" Arjun Berera. Space Dust Collisions as a Planetary Escape Mechanism. Astrobiology, 2017; DOI: 10.1089/ast.2017.1662 More.

At present, it is a good premise for quality science fiction. That said, it might be testable in the foreseeable future, by experimental launches between Earth and the Moon.

See also: Pretty discouraging news from exoplanet research: We're not sure what to look for And most don't think life will be found on an exoplanet by 2040. and

Researchers: Water flow on Mars turns out to be sand and dust Mars is so close to Earth that it benefits from some features that enable life on Earth. Dashed hopes for Mars probably reduce the chances for similar exoplanets in galactic habitable zones.


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Would this proposal for peer review reform work?
Thu, 23 Nov 2017 17:03:07 +0000

File:FileStack.jpg

What's hot? What's not?/Niklas Bildhauer, Wikimedia

From Jennifer Franklin at Elsevier Connect:

A new sort of peer review: RMR articles are sent for review without the results, discussion or conclusion (although data has already been collected) and reviewers are asked to evaluate the article on the research question and the methodology only. The review process is split into two stages. In stage 1, only the research question and methodology are sent for review, and reviewers are asked to provide a recommendation. If the paper is given an in-principle 'accept' decision, the paper moves into stage 2 where the author submits the full paper for review. More detail on this process can be found here.

Get this:

If you asked a compelling question, used rigorous methods and data analysis, but got non-significant or unusual results, what would you do with that study? The sad truth is that many researchers would decide to not submit to a journal because of concerns getting it published. More.

Just think, if the founders of modern sciences had had conventional peer reviewers: Scientists would be evaluated today on their understanding of and support for phlogiston, ether, and spontaneous generation.

Keep up to date with Retraction Watch

See also: Peer review 'unscientific': Tough words from editor of Nature

Hat tip: Pos-Darwinista


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Common Atlantic jellyfish is actually two species?
Thu, 23 Nov 2017 14:01:45 +0000
File:Chrysaora quinquecirrha.jpg

Atlantic sea nettle/Antoine Taveneaux

At this point, is 'species' just homage to Darwin's Origin of Species? From ScienceDaily:

The Atlantic sea nettle is one of the most common and well known jellyfish along the U.S. East Coast, especially in the Chesapeake Bay and Rehoboth Bay where they commonly sting swimmers in large numbers. Since it was described nearly 175 years ago, the jellyfish has been assumed to be a single species.

The discovery that is was actually two distinct species, Gaffney said, was made possible by DNA sequencing techniques.

"Before DNA came along, people in museums looked at organisms and counted spines and bristles, measured things, and sorted organisms by their physical characteristics in order to identify species," Gaffney said. "In the case of this jellyfish, which has been commonly known for centuries, Keith found through DNA sequencing that there were actually two groups." Paper. (public access) '" Keith M. Bayha, Allen G. Collins, Patrick M. Gaffney. Multigene phylogeny of the scyphozoan jellyfish family Pelagiidae reveals that the common U.S. Atlantic sea nettle comprises two distinct species (Chrysaora quinquecirrha and C. chesapeakei). PeerJ, 2017; 5: e3863 DOI: 10.7717/peerj.3863 More.

Move over, 'new species' of orangutan!

So what, exactly, is the value of the concept of 'speciation' anyway, apart from appeasing US school boards and Euro science boffins? None of this would matter much if all that was at stake was tenure somewhere for an academic non-entity who is more likely to be a victim of than a promoter of the current campus war on the intellectual life.

But what about preserving biodiversity and, explicitly for example, endangered primate groups like orangutans?

Don't we need to start by revamping the way we decide what we should save, as well as how? Now that would be a useful project for the Royal Society.

See also: New species of orangutan? Or new need to clarify what 'species' means?

Nothing says 'Darwin snob' like indifference to the mess that the entire concept of speciation is in

and

Upcoming Royal Society meeting: Sexual selection in extinct animals Huh? One thing about studying sexual selection in extinct animals, we may never be able to find out if we are wrong. ðŸ'


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Upcoming Royal Society meeting: Sexual selection in extinct animals Huh?
Thu, 23 Nov 2017 12:53:41 +0000

Extinct animals? Pos-Darwinista writes to draw our attention to

Theo Murphy International scientific meeting organised by Dr Rob Knell, Dr Dave Hone and Professor Doug Emlen

[May 9-10 2018] Sexual selection is potentially an important driver of macroevolutionary processes like speciation and extinction, but this has rarely been tested using the fossil record. This meeting will bring biologists and palaeontologists together to discuss sexual selection's role in macroevolution, how to detect it in extinct animals and how to measure its influence on the history of life across geological time.

One thing about studying sexual selection in extinct animals, we may never be able to find out if we are wrong.

Sexual selection was Darwin's other Really Big Theory of how evolution happens, a theory whose biggest achievement seems to be turning much pop science writing into mere pop social science. (Why he lies you! Why he doesn't! Ask Neanderthal man!)

The schedule of talks and speaker biographies are available below. Speaker abstracts will be available closer to the meeting date. Recorded audio of the presentation will be available on this page after the meeting has taken place. More.

Sexual selection?

Similarly, another study revealed many secrets of the convoluted sex lives of crickets, including the fact that 'dominant males had fewer mates than subordinate males, but they had similar numbers of offspring.'

Recently, a key sexual selection theory, Bateman's theory that promiscuity benefits males but not females, was subjected to replication studies (repeating the experiment to see if it works out) and it didn't replicate.

Pop science knows that sex matters. It matters because Darwin said so.

How it actually functions in different life forms or functioned in the case of extinct life forms hardly matters.

So now what? Boffins playing it safe?

Or are they moving beyond the comfort zone of 'everybody knows' pop science? Transcript will help.

Readers will recall the largely flubbed effort to have a serious discussion about Darwinian approaches to evolution last fall.

See also: Royal Society: What has the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis missed?

The second advent of the Royal Society's evolution rethink last November?

and

Can sex explain evolution?


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When Noam Chomsky flirted with not being a Darwinist
Thu, 23 Nov 2017 05:59:28 +0000
Noam Chomsky portrait 2017.jpg

Noam Chomsky 2017/sigma, Creative Commons

Linguist Noel Rude (Native American languages) writes,

Recently listened to "Noam Chomsky speaks about Universal Linguistics: Origins of Language" on YouTube. The talk was at Winona State University in Minnesota on March 20, 1998. This is about 20 years back, and the man could more comfortably sound like an ID person than he could now. He is a Cartesian, meaning that for all practical purposes he accepts the mind-body distinction, that is, that human language is creative yet operates within the parameters of grammar that is innate. Yet he says there is no physical-mental distinction because there is no physical. Newton's law of gravitation-an attractive force at a distance-is as mystical and unexplainable as the telekinesis of a psychic (if such exists).

I think he's right. We know a lot less then we think we do.

Chomsky concedes, likely as a bone to the Darwinistas, that much in biology is poorly designed (the spine, for ex.). But human language, he says, evinces "optimal design". A lot of what he says here has since been disputed and even ridiculed-and Chomsky has his failings-but he is brilliant and the notions expressed here have not been disproved.

In the Q & A afterwards, someone asked about grammatical "case"-y'all may remember me waxing ineloquent on this-on how the only way to deal with it cross linguistically (universally) is to admit that the basic components within the clause are consciousness and agency. How is it that Chomsky, so good on linguistic creativity, on the inadequacy of stimulus-response, etc., is seemingly unwilling to admit to the vast amount of work on case (grammatical relations) that is disconcerting to the materialist.

Listen to him and see him demolish materialism.

Note: Noam Chomsky's widely publicized concerns about media manipulation (2002) may have been a bit of a distraction. The internet changes everything. The manipulation is still there but the hands under the puppets don't necessarily work the same way now.

See also: Noel Rude on Tom Wolfe's The Kingdom of Speech wherein Wolfe attacks Chomsky It doesn't sound like either of them is a Darwinist at heart but allowing the trolls to know that just now would be pretty foolhardy.


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In 2008 book, philosopher of consciousness John Searle warns against the post-modern will to power in science
Thu, 23 Nov 2017 00:15:29 +0000
John searle2.jpg

John Searle, 2005/Matthew Breindel, GNU

Wintery Knight reminds us that philosopher of consciousness John Searle wrote about the basic instincts behind post-modernism in Mind, Language and Society: Philosophy In The Real World in 2008:

I have to confess, however, that I think there is a much deeper reason for the persistent appeal of all forms of antirealism, and this has become obvious in the twentieth century: it satisfies a basic urge to power. It just seems too disgusting, somehow, that we should have to be at the mercy of the 'real world.' It seems too awful that our representations should have to be answerable to anything but us. This is why people who hold contemporary versions of antirealism and reject the correspondence theory of truth typically sneer at the opposing view.

I don't think it is the argument that is actually driving the impulse to deny realism. I think that as a matter of contemporary cultural and intellectual history, the attacks on realism are not driven by arguments, because the arguments are more or less obviously feeble, for reasons I will explain in detail in a moment. Rather, as I suggested earlier, the motivation for denying realism is a kind of will to power, and it manifests itself in a number of ways. In universities, most notably in various humanities disciplines, it is assumed that, if there is no real world, then science is on the same footing as the humanities. They both deal with social constructs, not with independent realities. From this assumption, forms of postmodernism, deconstruction, and so on, are easily developed, having been completely turned loose from the tiresome moorings and constraints of having to confront the real world. If the real world is just an invention-a social construct designed to oppress the marginalized elements of society-then let's get rid of the real world and construct the world we want. That, I think, is the real driving psychological force behind antirealism at the end of the twentieth century. More.

As we all know, it has got to the point that the basic operating principles of science can be portrayed as just one or another example of bigotry. Science boffins say nothing because they dare not confront the toxic snowflakes Bret Weinstein had to face when they can hide out in the comfort and safety of their offices instead, concede key points, and emit soothing blather to no effect.

See also: Bret Weinstein, the Evergreen prof who got SJW-d? It's partly the fault of creationists! Here's the problem Francis and so many others do not want to face: Current science boffins, with way more reach than any native American activist, are unwilling and unable to take stand against post-modernism (and its inevitable results), possibly because they believe it themselves and just want to stay on top anyhow.

Can science survive long in a post-modern world? It's not clear.

and

How naturalism morphed into a state religion


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Here are some astronauts who are not named Julie Payette who doubt that life has a random origin
Wed, 22 Nov 2017 20:03:02 +0000

Readers may recall the recent flap about Canada's governor-general ridiculing anyone who thinks that life did not originate randomly, to which Canadian biophysicist Kirk Durston responded, among other things:

The third problem with the Governor General's example of unquestioning faith in science is the corruption that has reached crises proportions in certain areas of science itself, with a special nod to the biological sciences. In 2012 the journal Nature published an expos © which found that 89% of 'landmark' papers in the field of cancer research, could not be reproduced. More.

This is not a good time to be gung-ho for scientism but anyway, Durston notes: that other astronauts do not agree with Payette: On two different occasions, I spent time with one of the astronauts who had walked on the moon, Colonel James Irwin, as he spoke at the University of British Columbia and the University of Manitoba on the subject of his experience as an astronaut and his sincere faith in God. A friend of mine, Bryan Windle, has an interest in the faith of various astronauts, so I invited him to do a guest post here. (Kirk)

Guest post by Bryan Windle:

Julie Payette, former astronaut and Canadian Governor General recently created a firestorm when she expressed her incredulity that 'we are still debating and still questioning whether life was a divine intervention or whether it was coming out of a natural process let alone, oh my goodness, lo and behold random process.' Coming from a well-educated, former astronaut, her opinion added force to the perception that in 2017, science (often confused with scientism) has settled all debate among surrounding the origin of life.

Her comments, with accompanying eye-roll, were not only an insult to millions of intelligent people of faith, but to many of her former colleagues in the astronaut corps (including her own shuttle pilot for STS-96, Rick Husband) -people who are as well educated and intelligent as she is. A significant number of astronauts, past and present, are people of faith who believe there was 'divine intervention' involved in creation. More.

See also: Biophysicist Kirk Durston: Canada's governor general as a highly visible example of scientism

and

How naturalism morphed into a state religion


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Another axe lying at the root of the Tree of Life
Wed, 22 Nov 2017 12:48:00 +0000

A brand new early eukaryote ('its own eukaryotic lineage') From Katarina Zimmer at The Scientist:

From an aquarium at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California, scientists have identified a unicellular species that could shed light on how eukaryotes evolved, they report in Current Biology this week (November 22). The tiny organism'-named Ancoracysta twista'-is not only its own species, says lead author of the study, Jan Janou" kovec, but 'it represents a whole new lineage in the eukaryotic tree of life.'

A. twista is about 10 micrometers long and moves by using its whip-like flagellum. It is named after its distinguishing feature'-the 'ancoracyst,' a gun-like organelle that it uses to 'shoot' at and immobilize its prey, usually other flagellate species. Janou" kovec, a molecular biologist at University College London, along with an international team of scientists, discovered A. twista in a sample collected from the surface of a brain coral in a tropical aquarium.

The researchers realized that Ancoracysta represents its own lineage when phylogenetic models could not reconcile its genetic material with that of any existing lineages.

'

But Janou" kovec's discovery has thrown a spanner into the works, because A. twista's mitochondria also have a large number of protein-coding genes, 47, but they're not closely related to the jakobids at all. This suggests that the origin of eukaryotes might be a bit more complicated than previously thought. A. twista is 'helping us get a bit closer to answering some of those questions,' Janou" kovec tells The Scientist. More.

Yet another brand new highly specified weapons system that Darwinians will need to claim is not irreducibly complex. How much easier it would have been for them if all the systems were descendants of The Primeval System.

See also: Dinosaurs are tearing paleontology apart?

Jumping' Genes!: A quarter of cow DNA came from reptiles?

No coherent 'narrative' for transposable elements (jumping genes)?

Jumping genes make the tree of life a bush

and

Life continues to ignore what evolution experts say


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Ars Technica: Ordovician period 'even crazier' than the Cambrian
Tue, 21 Nov 2017 21:31:49 +0000

graptolite fossils/Britannica

From Annalee Newitz at Ars Technica:

The Cambrian Explosion gets a lot of play because it was the first time multicellular creatures ruled the planet. What few people (other than geologists and paleontologists) realize is that there was an even crazier time for early life. It came during the Ordovician period, right after the Cambrian came to a close 485 million years ago. The Ordovician Radiation, also called the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event (GOBE), saw a quadrupling of diversity at the genus level (that's the category one step above species). Life also started occupying new ecological niches, clinging to plants floating in the ocean's water column and burrowing deep into the seabed. More.

All life, so far as is known, was under water and the often-preserved graptolite was a classic example of what has been found so far:

Graptolite, any member of an extinct group of small, aquatic colonial animals that first became apparent during the Cambrian Period (542 million to 488 million years ago) and that persisted into the Early Carboniferous Period (359 million to 318 million years ago). Graptolites were floating animals that have been most frequently preserved as carbonaceous impressions on black shales, but their fossils have been found in a relatively uncompressed state in limestones. They possessed a chitinous (fingernail-like) outer covering and lacked mineralized hard parts. When found as impressions, the specimens are flattened, and much detail is lost. (Britannica)

Now that evolution is becoming a more serious, less ideological subject, a question arises: What difference do the life forms that were never preserved make in our understanding of an era?

See also: Not just the Cambrian? The Ordovician 'age of fishes' was an 'explosion' of diversity too? Due to more oxygen. So that means that the remarkable Cambrian explosion did not even have the benefit of as disproportionately large an amount of oxygen as is commonly assumed. One senses that there are more surprises to come.


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Not just the Cambrian? The Ordovician 'age of fishes' was an 'explosion' of diversity too?
Tue, 21 Nov 2017 16:21:19 +0000

late Cambrian to Middle Ordovician (460 to 495 million years ago)/Cole Edwards

From ScienceDaily:

Oxygen has provided a breath of fresh air to the study of the Earth's evolution some 400-plus million years ago.

A team of researchers, including a faculty member and postdoctoral fellow from Washington University in St. Louis, found that oxygen levels appear to increase at about the same time as a three-fold increase in biodiversity during the Ordovician Period, between 445 and 485 million years ago, according to a study published Nov. 20 in Nature Geoscience.

'

This explosion of diversity, recognized as the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event, brought about the rise of various marine life, tremendous change across species families and types, as well as changes to the Earth, starting at the bottom of the ocean floors. Asteroid impacts were among the many disruptions studied as the reasons for such an explosion of change. Edwards, Fike and others wanted to continue to probe the link between oxygen levels in the ocean-atmosphere and diversity levels of animals through deep time.

'

"This study suggests that atmospheric oxygen levels did not reach and maintain modern levels for millions of years after the Cambrian explosion, which is traditionally viewed as the time when the ocean-atmosphere was oxygenated," Edwards said. "In this research, we show that the oxygenation of the atmosphere and shallow ocean took millions of years, and only when shallow seas became progressively oxygenated were the major pulses of diversification able to take place." Paper. (paywall) '" Cole T. Edwards, Matthew R. Saltzman, Dana L. Royer, David A. Fike. Oxygenation as a driver of the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event. Nature Geoscience, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/s41561-017-0006-3 More.

So that means that the remarkable Cambrian explosion did not even have the benefit of the large amount of oxygen that is commonly assumed. One senses that there are more surprises to come.

See also: Animal parenting at 508 mya

New book: Our long-held beliefs about the history of life are wrong?

and

The 'boring billion' years: New hypothesis suggests oxygen shortage stalled life (So oxygen is important but how and under what circumstances?)


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