You know, the eco-Earth religion. Why a reboot? A machine built from scavenged parts from Britain's Royal Air Force started randomly but ended in equilibrium. Can it boost the Gaia cult?
Ashby believed this 'ultrastability' to be a governing principle in nature, explaining, among other things, the adaptation of species to their niche '" a process that appears purposeful, but actually arises from random processes. It may seem a stretch to describe the Homeostat's change over time, from wild motion to stability, as 'evolution'. After all, it lacks all the trappings we associate with Darwinian evolution '" such as life and reproduction. Bob Holmes, "Gaia rebooted: New version of idea explains how Earth evolved for life" at New Scientist
A stretch? Yes, because it's the 'life' part that's the trickiest. Most of the article is behind a paywall so you'll have to bet blind on whether the Homeostat will be the Next Big Thing in Gaia or pay something to find out Bob Holmes's view first. Here's saying the idea is good for a month or so. Then onto another craze.
Some of us think that the real threat to Gaia is actually the invented god.
Keeping in mind Murphy's Fundamental Law (Mother Nature is a bitch who doesn't need to do what you want or need or expect), it makes much more sense to just invent secular deities as needed, like sci-fi themes.
This book should put to rest the canard that atheism is free thinking, and oh so much more broad-minded and gentle than what is on offer from the dull and cramped-spirited God-fearing types. Gray thinks theism ill-conceived, but he does not think it has anything like the distasteful character of most atheism.
Gray reserves special scorn for those he terms'the Enlightenment Evangelists,' a camp that stands for the proposition that human nature freed from religious belief gives us benevolent liberalism. One of his seven types of atheism, Enlightenment Evangelism is represented by the likes of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. Typical of this position is the oft-repeated claim that but for the obscurantism of religion, reason would prevail and a sort of John Lennonesque humanistic utopia, knowing neither gods nor borders, would prevail.Graham McAleer, "John Gray Separates the Atheist Wheat from the Chaff" at Law & Liberty
Actually, it's amazing the number of regimes that made a big to-do about atheism that have ended in mass murder. It would be an interesting project for someone to study whether acknowledging God in a constitution functions as a sort of insurance policy against really high death tolls. It's an arguable point.
See also: (but not to be taken altogether seriously, in case you wondered): Neuroskeptic: Atheists are NOT genetically damaged
Of course, the claim is nonsense but then those of us who have listened to rubbish about the God gene and such can't help hiding a giggle. Hey, given that it's Hate Your Local Atheist Week anyway, how about 'Atheists have mutant genes, don't live as long "
Are we happier if we follow it? Nancy Pearcey, author of Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality, defends that view in this excerpt :
Every ethic stems ultimately from a view of nature'-because our bodies are part of nature. The liberal secular ethic derives from the theory that nature is a product of blind, undirected forces. Of course, it was Darwin's theory of evolution that cemented that idea in the modern mind. The two key elements of his theory-random mutation and the blind, automatic process of natural selection-were specifically intended to get rid of the concept of purpose and design in nature. As historian Jacques Barzun put it, "The denial of purpose is Darwin's distinctive contention."
Here's how a recent New Yorker article put it, 'the loyalty oath of modernity''"isn't that a grand phrase'-the loyalty oath you must take if you want to be considered a modern person'-is that 'nature is without conscious design ' the emergence of Homo sapiens was without meaning or telos' (the Greek word for goal or purpose).
The implication is that the human body has no intrinsic purpose that we are morally obligated to respect'-and the mind is free to use it any way it wants.
That's exactly how homosexuality is defended by the outspoken lesbian and public intellectual Camille Paglia.
Camille Paglia rejects the idea that sexuality is a social construction. No, she writes, nature made us male and female'-humans are a sexually reproducing species. But then she asks, and these are her words: Why not 'defy' nature? After all, 'Fate, not God, has given us this flesh. We have absolute claim to our bodies and may do with them as we see fit.'
The logic is that if our bodies are products of mindless, purposeless forces, then they convey no moral message, they give no clue to our identity, 'We may do with them as we see fit.'
By contrast a Christian view of nature is teleological, which comes from that same Greek word telos, meaning goal or purpose. It is evident to observation that living things are structured for a purpose: Eyes are for seeing, ears are for hearing, wings are for flying, fins are for swimming. The development of the entire organism is directed by an in-built genetic plan or blueprint. The reality is that nature exhibits a design, a plan, an order, a purpose'-and when we live in harmony with that purpose, we are healthier and happier.
In Love Thy Body I tell the story of a woman named Jean who lived as a lesbian for several years, but is now married with 2 children.
Jean said: I finally came to trust that God made me female for a reason, and I wanted to 'honor my body by living in accord with the Creator's design.'
In fact, in Love Thy Body I tell lots of personal stories, and one of my favorites is the story of Sean. As a young man, he identified as gay and was exclusively attracted to other men. Today he is married to a woman and has three children. What changed? What's interesting is that Sean grew up in a "gay affirming" family and attended a "gay affirming" church, so his change was not driven by any sense of guilt or shame. Instead, Sean says, I stopped defining my identity by my sexual feelings 'and started regarding my physical body as who I was.' His goal was not to try to change his feelings, which rarely works. 'Rather, it was to acknowledge what I already had (a male body) as a good gift from God.' And eventually 'my feelings started to follow suit.' Instead of defying nature, to use Paglia's words, he accepted his embodied existence as fundamentally good. That's really the question at the core of this debate: Do we live in a cosmos operating by blind, material causes?
Or a cosmos created by a loving Creator which is therefore intrinsically good?
Further to the question raised by John Horgan at Scientific American, as to whether philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn was 'evil,' a friend writes to say,
I haven't read Errol Morris's book about Kuhn, but I read Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions when it first came out, and I've read it several times since then. I also heard Kuhn speak to academic audiences years ago.
Whatever else one may say about Kuhn's most famous book, I think one thing is clear: He described with amazing insight how the scientific establishment works to suppress a radically new idea. Viewed through the spectacles of someone involved in the controversy over intelligent design, Kuhn's book was uncannily prophetic.
Kuhn was accused of relativism, and it's true that he attributed the victories of new "paradigms" to non-empirical factors. Yet there was one paradigm that Kuhn assumed was not a paradigm, but a fact of nature: Darwinism. His whole approach to scientific revolutions was Darwinian. New paradigms emerge as accidental mutations, not because of new evidence. Old and new paradigms then compete for survival, with the winner coming out on top for reasons other than the evidence.
I'm reminded of a conversation I once had with a communist. We were talking about scientific revolutions, and I argued that all scientific theories have subjective elements. He begged to differ, and said he knew of one science that was totally objective. "What that?" I said, intrigued. "The Marxist view of history," he answered. It took me a while to pick my chin up off the floor.
See also: Was philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn 'evil' Postmodernism is to science what rabies is to dogs. That is, it will lead to post-science as surely as rabies leads to post-dogs. But by all means, let them fight in the meantime.
It was announced on Twitter this morning, and as you can imagine, the Twitterati are not pleased. They are bombarding the show with replies about 'bunk science and the 6,000 year old universe,' 'Why not have a hour long discussing with a Flat Earther? Just as much evidence to support that claim as there is for ID,' and so on.David Klinghoffer, "Stephen Meyer on the Ben Shapiro Show This Sunday: God, Intelligent Design, and More" at Evolution News and Science Today:
You have to subscribe to watch the show tomorrow but it will be in the archives later even if Twitter melts down in the meantime.
The guy who coined the term 'paradigm shift' is evil? So implies The Ashtray: (Or the Man Who Denied Reality), written by filmmaker Errol Morris, who was once Kuhn's grad student (and Kuhn threw an ashtray at him and tossed him from the program).
The rap from Morris is, Kuhn empowered right-wing dictators but a reviewer sees the reality as a bit more complex:
Morris proposes that postmodernism is an attractive ideology for right-wing authoritarians. To support this claim, he notes the scorn for truth evinced by Hitler and the current U.S. President, for whom power trumps truth. Morris suggests that 'belief in a real world, in truth and in reference, does seem to speak to the left; the denial of the real world, of truth and reference, to the right.'
That's simply wrong. Postmodernism has often been coupled with progressive, anti-authoritarian critiques of imperialism, capitalism, racism and sexism. Postmodernists like Derrida, Foucault, Butler and Paul Feyerabend (my favorite philosopher) have challenged the political, moral and scientific paradigms that enable people in power to maintain the status quo .John Horgan, "Was Thomas Kuhn Evil?" at Scientific American
Postmodernism is to science what rabies is to dogs. That is, it will lead to post-science as surely as rabies leads to post-dogs. But no reason not to let them fight in the meantime.
Recently, we talked about how different segments of a virus genome can inhabit different cells but work together. Is this unimaginable? Sci-fi? No, just one reason why more attention should be paid to viruses if we want to understand life.
Here's another take on it, explaining how the researchers got the idea of testing for distribution between cells:
These viruses have always been baffling, even to virologists who knew about them. Everyone assumed that they could only reproduce if all the segments infected the same host cell. But the risk of losing a piece, and so dooming the others, skyrockets as the number of pieces goes up. In 2012, two researchers calculated that the odds of successfully getting every segment in the same cell become too low with anything more than three or four segments. FBNSV, with its eight segments, 'should never have evolved,' Blanc says. Its mere existence suggests 'that something must be wrong in the conceptual framework of virology.'
Perhaps, he realized, these viruses don't actually need to unite their segments in the same host cell. 'If theory was saying that this is impossible, maybe the viruses just don't do it,' he says. 'And once we had this stupid idea, testing it was very easy.'Ed Yong, "A New Discovery Upends What We Know About Viruses" at The Atlantic
Maybe in some fields we need more 'stupid' ideas that don't depend on what 'should have' evolved.
See also: Reset! Different segs of virus genome can exist in different cells but work together. Researchers: 'It has long been believed that all of the genome segments must move together from cell to cell to cause an infection. But the new study shows this is not the case.' We underestimate our viral overlords. They are making "it has long been believed" our enemy.
Virus expert highlights the conflict over whether viruses are alive In short, it is an open question. The question relates to the role viruses can play in evolution, among other things. Are they precursors of life, detritus of life, or something in between? Or all three? Keep the file open.
Should NASA look for viruses in space? Actually, it's not clear that RNA came first. Nor is it clear that viruses precede life. A good case can doubtless be made for viruses being part of the scrap heap of existing life. But no matter. If you think you can find viruses in space, boldly go.
Smack! Entomologists were bugged by the data errors, data-gathering methods, and editorializing tone in the paper:
To a trio of UK-based biologists at the University of York and Cardiff University, this doesn't pass the smell test. 'Trying to extrapolate from population or biomass declines over several decades, or from threatened species lists, in 'developed' temperate zone countries to, say, 100 year species level extinctions of undescribed endemics confined to the precipitous eastern flanks of the Andes does not wash,' these critics wrote in Global Change Biology earlier this month.
Finnish biologists at the University of Jyväskylä, writing in Rethinking Ecology this week, called out other issues, including the fact that local extinctions reported in some of the studies aren't easily extrapolated to a broader scale, and at least one instance in which insects with the conservation designation 'data deficient' were lumped in with those designated 'vulnerable' and thus assumed to be declining when we can't be sure.Maddie Stone, "Bug Scientists Squash 'Insect Apocalypse' Paper" at Gizmodo
The strongest point was made by the ecologist who said, ''We don't know anything about most insect species on Earth.'(Maddie Stone, Gizmodo)
The temptation for some seems to be to resort to apocalypse voodoo to demonstrate a crisis, at the expense of the methods that make scientists worth listening to, as an alternative to supermarket tabloids. File this one with: The real reasons people don't "trust science" with a special note: Ways we could start to trust science again, for example, when we start to see crackpot prophets of doom called out.
= Just because he's wearing a lab coat instead of a hair shirt...
A continuing discrepancy between two measurements of the expansion of the universe is 'forcing' a re-examination of the Standard Model, which physicists have hated for decades, mainly for philosophical reasons:
'The exciting thing is that if the discrepancy is due to new physics prior to recombination, it will almost certainly have distinctive signatures,' Lewis says. The signatures would show in the finer details of the CMB'-something that the next generation of CMB telescopes, such as the upcoming Simons Observatory, could see.
Riess also thinks that the discrepancy is pointing fingers at cosmologists' standard model. 'At some point, you have to start saying the universe has another wrinkle in it, in the cosmological model'-in the composition of the universe or in some feature of dark matter or dark energy'-[that] could also potentially explain this,' he says. 'You have to give that some serious consideration.'Anil Ananthaswamy , "Best-Yet Measurements Deepen Cosmological Crisis" at Scientific American
Two things many cosmologists would like to get rid of are the Big Bang and apparent fine-tuning of the universe. Telling a different story is difficult mainly due to lack of evidence for a different story but they can make do with discrepancies. But then maybe the years have made some of us cynical.
See also: Sabine Hossenfelder: Is science harmed by an illusion of progress?Tellingly, Hossenfelder adds, 'So here is the puzzle: Why can you not find any expert, besides me, willing to publicly voice criticism on particle physics? Hint: It's not because there is nothing to criticize. '
Researcher: The search for dark matter has become a 'quagmire of confirmation bias' So many research areas in science today are hitting hard barriers that it is reasonable to think that we are missing something.
Were told that reproducibility is what endows evolution (i.e., NS+RM) with the necessary power for overcoming huge obstacles of complexity.
However, does this same argument apply to the structures that organisms construct? DNA can produce, and then reproduce, an 'eye,' but how, exactly, does DNA produce and reproduce an architectural plan?
For example, a group of biologists, engineers and other scientists, led by scientist from Imperical College, London have used 3D X-ray imaging to explore and understand the structure underlying nests built by termites. It's really quite incredible.
A group of engineers, biologists, chemists and mathematicians lead by Imperial College London, the University of Nottingham, and CNRS-Toulouse have looked closer than ever before at how these nests work using 3-D X-ray imaging. They found small holes, or pores, in the walls of termite mounds which help them stay cool, ventilated, and dry.
Lead author Dr. Kamaljit Singh, from Imperial's Department of Earth Science and Engineering, said: "Termite nests are a unique example of architectural perfection by insects. The way they're designed offers fascinating self-sustaining temperature and ventilation controlling properties throughout the year without using any mechanical or electronic appliances."
Who would have thought that termites, using random mutations, could turn themselves into master architects!! They're creators of "architectural perfection".
In fact, it's such an outstanding design that the authors tell us this:
Dr. Singh said: "Not only do these remarkable structures self-ventilate and regulate their own temperatures'-they also have inbuilt drainage systems. Our research provides deeper insight into how they manage this so well."
The scientists say the newly found architecture within termite nests could help us improve ventilation, temperature control, and drainage systems in buildings'-and hopefully make them more energy efficient.
They've out-designed humans! Bravo!
But there is this question: where are we to locate the architectural plans for these nests? IOW, are they found in some kind of organelle in some cell somewhere? Is there some kind of termite boarding school where all this fascinating archticture is taught and learned?
Or, is this "knowledge" contained in their DNA and copied in just the same way as all DNA is copied by the cell and then transmitted? Isn't this the likely answer?
But this implies, does it not, that DNA can contain-is the respository of, "knowledge" simply as "knowledge"? And isn't "knowledge" the work of 'minds'? Isn't it only the 'mind' that can discover, distinguish, appropriate and value "knowledge"? If so, then isn't the conclusion we should take away from what termites are able to accomplish one of DNA being completely capable of harmonizing itself with the work of a 'mind'?
I suspect there are a few evolutionary biologists (Darwinists) who might disagree with this notion.