Interbreeding accounts only for a tiny amount of human adaptation around the world. Analyses of DNA are showing us that, as our ancestors moved around the world, they evolved to different environments and diets far more quickly than was originally thought.
For example, the textbook example of a human adaptation is the evolution of lactose tolerance. The ability to digest milk past the age of three is not universal '" and was previously assumed to have spread into Europe with agriculture from the Middle East starting some 10,000 years ago.
But when we look at the DNA of people over the past 10,000 years, this adaptation '" which is now commonplace in northern Europe '" was not present until around around 4,000 years ago, and even then it was still quite rare. This means that the spread of lactose tolerance across Europe must have occurred incredibly quickly. More.
But why is lactose tolerance the sort of thing that was originally thought to be difficult to develop? The big story is the sudden appearance of complex traits, not simple ones.
See also: Making human brain evolution look gradual by ignoring enough data' We are used to governments' disappearing monster deficits (and, to be honest, in some cases, disappearing people) this way. It feels squishier when scientists do it. Unless, of course, evolutionary biology isn't really a science anymore. More a form of Darwinian storytelling where the preferred narrative is chosen'
Computers get a say in these life-changing decisions because their crime forecasts are supposedly less biased and more accurate than human guesswork.
A comparison of the volunteers' answers with COMPAS' predictions for the same 1,000 defendants found that both were about 65 percent accurate. 'We were like, 'Holy crap, that's amazing,'' says study coauthor Hany Farid, a computer scientist at Dartmouth. 'You have this commercial software that's been used for years in courts around the country '- how is it that we just asked a bunch of people online and [the results] are the same?'
There's nothing inherently wrong with an algorithm that only performs as well as its human counterparts. But this finding, reported online January 17 in Science Advances, should be a wake-up call to law enforcement personnel who might have 'a disproportionate confidence in these algorithms,' Farid says.
Farid has his doubts that computers can show much improvement. He and Dressel built several simple and complex algorithms that used two to seven defendant features to predict recidivism. Like COMPAS, all their algorithms maxed out at about D-level accuracy. That makes Farid wonder whether trying to predict crime with anything approaching A+ accuracy is an exercise in futility. More.
Maybe computers would be better at predicting crime among sociopathic robots than among humans.
Why human beings cannot design a conscious machine: Basic physics would suggest that even that single neuron has properties that cannot be duplicated by all the world's supercomputers running Attoflop simulations.
Quantum mechanics is a strange theory, and it has been used to justify all manner of religious claims such as extra-sensory perception. This year we bring together five experts on the physics of quantum mechanics to discuss what we know and what we don't know. We will work both to make the basic laws of quantum mechanics accessible to the non-expert, while at the same time addressing cutting-edge debates in the philosophy and application of quantum physics.
Location: The Twentieth Century Club, 4201 Bigelow Blvd., Pittsburgh, PA
7:45 P.M. Dr. Erica W. Carlson, 'Quantum Mechanics For Everyone'
Abstract: Can I use quantum mechanics to create my own reality? Does God play dice? Quantum mechanics takes us into the wild and wacky world of the really small where particles are waves, waves are particles, and the physical intuition we have from our everyday life doesn't seem to work. If we lived in Quantumland, we could sit in three chairs at once and even speed without getting a ticket. Using everyday objects like a slinky, some dice, and soda pop cans, we'll uncover how quantum mechanics really works.
Bio: Erica W. Carlson, Ph.D., is Professor of Physics at Purdue University. Prof. Carlson holds a BS in Physics from the California Institute of Technology (1994), as well as a Ph.D. in Physics from UCLA (2000). A theoretical physicist, Prof. Carlson researches electronic phase transitions in novel materials. In 2015, she was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society 'for theoretical insights into the critical role of electron nematicity, disorder, and noise in novel phases of strongly correlated electron systems and predicting unique characteristics.' Prof. Carlson has been on the faculty at Purdue University since 2003, where she also serves as the faculty advisor for Cru and Ratio Christi. She occasionally does speaking engagements on the intersection of Christianity and science with Reasons to Believe and Ravi Zacharias International Ministries More.
See also: Christian Scientific Society talks on human exceptionalism (2017) now online
Bernard Wood's research group has a new paper on brain size evolution in hominins, led by Andrew Du in Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series B: 'Pattern and process in hominin brain size evolution are scale-dependent'.
In this paper, I notice that the researchers have done a really weird thing: Their analyses include only hominin fossils before 500,000 years ago.
The specimens reflect every hominin species from Australopithecus afarensis up to 'Homo heidelbergensis'. Modern humans and Neanderthals have been left out of the dataset'-they don't fall within the pre-500,000-year time range.
On the basis of this dataset, the authors conclude that the entire hominin lineage is compatible with a single pattern of gradual evolutionary increase over time.
Charts are offered by way of illustration.
There are two species entirely missing from the data examined by Du and colleagues. The fossil records of endocranial volume in Homo naledi and Homo floresiensis both date to the last 300,000 years. When you include them, they both reject the notion of gradual monotonic increase in brain size. More.
We are used to governments' disappearing monster deficits (and, to be honest, in some cases, disappearing people) this way. It feels squishier when scientists do it. Unless, of course, evolutionary biology isn't really a science anymore. More a form of Darwinian storytelling where the preferred narrative is chosen'
BuzzFeed News has learned that the incident with Hensley is one of many wide-ranging allegations of Krauss's inappropriate behavior over the last decade '- including groping women, ogling and making sexist jokes to undergrads, and telling an employee at Arizona State University, where he is a tenured professor, that he was going to buy her birth control so she didn't inconvenience him with maternity leave. In response to complaints, two institutions '- Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario '- have quietly restricted him from their campuses. Our reporting is based on official university documents, emails, and interviews with more than 50 people.
Many of his accusers have requested anonymity, fearing professional or legal retaliation from Krauss, or online abuse from men in the movement who have smeared women for speaking out about other skeptics. A few allegations about Krauss made their way onto skeptic blogs, but were quickly taken down in fear of legal action. So for years, these stories have stayed inside whisper networks in skepticism and physics.
In lengthy emails to BuzzFeed News, Krauss denied all of the accusations against him, calling them 'false and misleading defamatory allegations.' When asked why multiple women, over more than a decade, have separately accused him of misconduct, he said the answer was 'obvious': It's because his provocative ideas have made him famous. More.
Larry Krauss, though a cosmologist, is mooted as a possible successor to zoologist Dawkins in the defence of Darwin. Thus he may not know that there is a lot of rethinking going on around evolution these days. But what's Jerry Coyne's excuse? A reader writes to point out that ambitious faculty who are not much interested in either scholarship or teaching tend to become administrators or controversialists. See below:
Larry Krauss goes after new US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
Culturally that's a big one. From Carolyn Gramling at ScienceNews:
The once-lengthy list of 'definitely a dinosaur' features had already been dwindling over the past few decades thanks to new discoveries of close dino relatives such as Teleocrater. With an April 2017 report of Teleocrater's skull depression (SN Online: 4/17/17), yet another feature was knocked off the list.
'I often get asked 'what defines a dinosaur,' ' says Randall Irmis, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum of Utah in Salt Lake City. Ten to 15 years ago, scientists would list perhaps half a dozen features, he says. 'The only one to still talk about is having a complete hole in the hip socket.'
The abundance of recent discoveries of dinosauromorphs, a group that includes the dinosaur-like creatures that lived right before and alongside early dinosaurs, does more than call diagnostic features into question. It is shaking up long-standing ideas about the dinosaur family tree.
To Nesbitt, all this upheaval has placed an even more sacred cow on the chopping block: the uniqueness of the dinosaur.
'What is a dinosaur?' Nesbitt says. 'It's essentially arbitrary.'
Paleontologists once assumed the dinosaurs were somehow superior, with physical features that helped them outcompete the other reptiles. 'But that's not borne out by new dinosaur relatives,' Nesbitt says. More.
Why did the paleontologists assume that dinosaurs were 'somehow superior'? Because fundamental to Darwinism is the notion that life forms succeed if they 'outcompete' other life forms, much as if they were all entered in the Kentucky Derby and one of them gets to eat the roses.
But nature doesn't quite work that way. It features vast numbers of ecologies, growing and shrinking, in which countless life forms have a place'-not principally by competition but by membership in a local chain of life. Competition is not a war of all against all; it usually happens for a given space on the chain. That space may go to a life form that is either 'superior' or inferior according to an irrelevant, external standard. Many factors cause changes over time (evolution) and some may lead to devolution, in which case, the spot on the chain is occupied successfully by a genetically devolved life form.
To understand dinosaurs, it may be better to just forget Darwinism. Sorry, NCSE.
' Language emerged in only one species, H. sapiens.
' Such a system cannot evolve in a Darwinian social world. ' Language emerged for reasons which no currently accepted theoretical framework can explain.
Abstract: Language evolved in no species other than humans, suggesting a deep-going obstacle to its evolution. Could it be that language simply cannot evolve in a Darwinian world? Reviewing the insights of Noam Chomsky, Amotz Zahavi and Dan Sperber, this article shows how and why each apparently depicts language's emergence as theoretically impossible. Chomsky shuns evolutionary arguments, asserting simply that language was instantaneously installed. Zahavi argues that language entails reliance on low cost conventional signals whose evolutionary emergence would contradict basic Darwinian theory. Sperber argues that a symbolic expression is, literally, a falsehood, adding to the difficulty of explaining how '" in a Darwinan world '" systematic reliance on language could ever have evolved. It is concluded that language exists, but for reasons which no currently accepted theoretical paradigm can explain. (paywall), Chris Knight, Puzzles and mysteries in the origins of language, Language & Communication Volume 50, September 2016, Pages 12-21 More.
Knight is described as radical(Times Higher). Is that why he is permitted to ask: 'Could it be that language simply cannot evolve in a Darwinian world?' It's not like that is a normal question these days.
The obvious reason language evolved only in humans is that only humans have ever had anything to say that requires it. Human consciousness is symbiotic with language. But, what, specifically, are we conscious of that requires language?
See also: Linguist Daniel Everett: Homo erectus must have been able to speak, to get to Flores. Others dispute his claims, to be sure. But, you know, those hominins get smarter every time we research them.
In which journal a scientist publishes is considered one of the most crucial factors determining their career. The underlying common assumption is that only the best scientists manage to publish in a highly selective tier of the most prestigious journals. However, data from several lines of evidence suggest that the methodological quality of scientific experiments does not increase with increasing rank of the journal. On the contrary, an accumulating body of evidence suggests the inverse: methodological quality and, consequently, reliability of published research works in several fields may be decreasing with increasing journal rank. The data supporting these conclusions circumvent confounding factors such as increased readership and scrutiny for these journals, focusing instead on quantifiable indicators of methodological soundness in the published literature, relying on, in part, semi-automated data extraction from often thousands of publications at a time. With the accumulating evidence over the last decade grew the realization that the very existence of scholarly journals, due to their inherent hierarchy, constitutes one of the major threats to publicly funded science: hiring, promoting and funding scientists who publish unreliable science eventually erodes public trust in science. '" Front. Hum. Neurosci., 20 February 2018 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2018.00037More.
We should wonder why this stuff isn't a way bigger scandal. That's what unthinking piety does to a field, and unthinking piety toward science is what much of the current popular science media promotes.
See also: Missing data hinder replication in AI studies too? At Nautilus: Scientists should not accept unreplicated results '" yawn
At Nature: Change how we judge research. Hmm' Using this scheme, what would protect the researcher who submits the suggested bio-sketch from becoming a target for political reasons that are unrelated to research quality? Think Jordan B. Peterson. or Gunter Bechly. Or anyone who sounds like a risk for blowing the whistle on corruption. The fate of whistleblowers is already often grim.
Roman floor mosaic, 200'"250 AD, Eternity and Gaia, as somewhat like humans.
From Scuzzaman, commenting at 'Fine-tuning is easy to explain: The universe itself is conscious and somewhat like a human:
The thing I find most amusing and dismaying is that, as long as one affirms some kind of pan-darwinian orthodoxy vis-a-vis common descent by modification, literally ANY kind of madness is back on the menu.
It is this, more than anything else, that identifies evolution as a religious mania. It's a perverse mirror image of the worst political aspects of historical religion wherein the only possible heresy is not dissent but disobedience.
In modern science you can be respectable while disobeying every fundamental precept of the discipline, as long as you do not dissent from its primal dogma: common descent by modification. Here.
That's more or less what Darwin foresaw when he wrote,
But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?
Never mind Darwin's Doubt. The "horrid" doubt is Darwin's doom. It is being lived out today by naturalist atheists everywhere. However ridiculous, it is no laughing matter. They really believe it and their belief unfits science establishments for combatting the invading horde of anti-science post-moderns.
See also: At Aeon: Fine-tuning is easy to explain: The universe itself is conscious, and somewhat like a human Goff: 'However, it now seems to me that reflection on the fine-tuning might give us grounds for thinking that the mental life of the Universe is just a little closer than I had previously thought to the mental life of a human being.' Indeed. If we keep going in this direction, we will run into Zeus. The only remaining mystery is why our Stone Age ancestors gave up on him after a while.