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 You're here » RSS Feeds Directory » Ministry » Creation Science » Uncommon Descent

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Uncommon Descent
Serving The Intelligent Design Community

A peek at Mike Behe's new book Darwin Devolves
Wed, 14 Nov 2018 23:49:45 +0000

Here:

While Stephen Colbert has called Michael J. Behe the 'Father of Intelligent Design,' Behe's arguments have been called, 'close to heretical' by the New York Times Book Review, and Richard Dawkins has publicly taken him to task for his 'maverick' views. Wherever he goes, Behe makes waves, but has remained singularly focused on doing rigorous scientific analysis that points to controversial but incredible results that other scientists won't touch.

Twenty years after publishing his seminal work, Darwin's Black Box, Behe shows that new scientific discoveries point to a stunning fact: Darwin's mechanism works by a process of devolution, not evolution. On the surface, evolution can help make something look and act different, but it doesn't have the ability to build or create anything at the genetic level.

Critically analyzing the latest research, Behe gives a sweeping tour of how modern theories of evolution fall short and how the devolving nature of Darwin's mechanism limits them even further. If we are to get a satisfactory answer to how the most complex, stunning life-forms arose, it's time to acknowledge the conclusion that only an intelligent mind could have designed life.

We're told that the basic thesis is, The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution: Break or blunt any functional gene whose loss would increase the number of offspring.

You can preorder (February 26, 2019) and get a free extra chapter.

Lehigh University's Mike Behe is, of course, also the author of Darwin's Black Box (1996) and The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism (2007)

 

Note: The book develops a paper Behe published in the Quarterly Review of Biology (2010),

Adaptive evolution can cause a species to gain, lose, or modify a function; therefore, it is of basic interest to determine whether any of these modes dominates the evolutionary process under particular circumstances. Because mutation occurs at the molecular level, it is necessary to examine the molecular changes produced by the underlying mutation in order to assess whether a given adaptation is best considered as a gain, loss, or modification of function. Although that was once impossible, the advance of molecular biology in the past half century has made it feasible. In this paper, I review molecular changes underlying some adaptations, with a particular emphasis on evolutionary experiments with microbes conducted over the past four decades. I show that by far the most common adaptive changes seen in those examples are due to the loss or modification of a pre-existing molecular function, and I discuss the possible reasons for the prominence of such mutations. '" Michael J. Behe, "Experimental evolution, loss-of-function mutations, and 'the first rule of adaptive evolution'," The Quarterly Review of Biology 85, no. 4 (December 2010): 419-445. (paywall)

 


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Astonishing! A pop science article on fine-tuning that isn't just plain stupid
Wed, 14 Nov 2018 23:03:50 +0000
This image represents the evolution of the Universe, starting with the Big Bang. The red arrow marks the flow of time.

Big Bang/NASA

Get a load of this:

More recently, scientists have pointed out that if one tweaks many of the dimensionless physical constants '- numbers like pi that are independent of units and simply exist as fundamental ideas '- none of the cosmos we see would exist. One of these numbers is omega, the density parameter, which pits gravity's pull against the expanding push of dark energy. If gravity were stronger, the universe would have long since ceased expanding, and would have collapsed back down in a reverse Big Bang, often called the 'Big Crunch.' If dark energy were stronger, then the universe would race away from itself so that no matter would stick together and stars, planets, and people could never form.

If the cosmos were truly a random and senseless arrangement of particles, it seems eerie or suspicious to many that these two forces balance so delicately. Korey Hanes, "Are the Laws of the Universe Fine-Tuned for Life?" at Discover

Of course, Haynes raises the idea of the multiverse (science's assisted suicide) but then acknowledges, 'we're drastically short on data.' It sounds as if Haynes thinks data actually matters. Others treat the multiverse as a sort of charm against the importance of data. Once it's invoked, the weight of the evidence becomes irrelevant.

The commonsensical approach employed here raises an interesting question: If the evidence for fine-tuning grows and no evidence whatever emerges for a multiverse, is there some point at which the weight of the evidence counts? Then what?

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See also: Michael Denton on why the Sun is remarkably fit for life

Fine-tuning: Is Earth's magnetic core special too, compared to Mars's?

The early universe was flat to a 'suspicious' one part in a million Hence cosmic inflation theory, promoted with some pretty wild theorizing

and

What becomes of science when the evidence does not matter? v


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If quantum mechanics were a researcher, she'd be fired
Wed, 14 Nov 2018 15:05:37 +0000

And have to leave academic science. Factually correct answers do not matter now if they are not politically correct. In a review of Adam Becker's What Is Real? The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics (Basic Books, 2018), mathematician and physicist Sheldon Lee Glasgow tells us

No one can doubt that quantum mechanics is strange. Who could believe that particles can briefly violate energy conservation so as to pass through otherwise impenetrable barriers?1 Who could believe that a body's position and velocity could not both be known to an arbitrary degree of precision, yet this is Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. Who could believe that not more than one electron can occupy the same quantum state, yet this is Pauli's exclusion principle? How can it be that electrons and protons behave like waves, just as electromagnetic waves behave like particles? All attempts to skirt these quantum-mechanical principles have failed.

As Adam Becker concedes, '[Q]uantum physics certainly works.' Sheldon Lee Glashow, "Not So Real" at Inference Review

We are given the impression that Becker does not like that fact. 'Erwin Schr dinger's cat is one of Becker's pet preoccupations. The first of her several dozen appearances in his book is on page 2, the last seven on page 257.' What Becker does like is string theory, about which Glasgow says,

Can theories admitting no conceivable experimental test, like string theory or multiverse cosmology, be useful contributions to physics? 'Claiming that no data,' Becker argues, 'could ever force the rejection of a multiverse theory is merely stating that a multiverse theory is just like any other theory.'8 But the multiverse is not like any other theory. To accept it is to reject any possibility of understanding how neutrinos acquire mass, why weak interactions violate parity, or what determines the mathematical structure of the Standard Model. These mysteries and whatever secrets lie beyond the Standard Model are simply accidents of birth of our particular universe.

Read the rest.

Hat tip: Philip Cunningham, who comments,

Quantum mechanics falsifies the naturalistic/materialistic view of reality which holds that space-time, matter-energy is all that there is. In other words, a cause that is completely beyond space-time, matter-energy must be appealed to in order to explain the effect of quantum correlations.

Theists, specifically Christian Theists, have a beyond space-time, matter-energy cause to appeal to. Atheists don't! In fact, as stated previously, atheistic materialism denies that anything beyond space-time, matter-energy exists.

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See also: Post-modern physics: String theory gets over the need for evidence

and

The multiverse is science's assisted suicide


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Mystery: Extinct birds as well adapted for flight as surviving modern ones
Wed, 14 Nov 2018 00:58:42 +0000

Fossilized wishbone (furcula)David Strauss

But they aren't the ancestors of the modern ones. They died out, but why? From ScienceDaily:

"We know that birds in the early Cretaceous, about 115 to 130 million years ago, were capable of flight but probably not as well adapted for it as modern birds," said Atterholt, who is now an assistant professor and human anatomy instructor at the Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California. "What this new fossil shows is that enantiornithines, though totally separate from modern birds, evolved some of the same adaptations for highly refined, advanced flight styles."

'

If enantiornithines in the late Cretaceous were just as advanced as modern birds, however, why did they die out with the dinosaurs while the ancestors of modern birds did not?

"This particular bird is about 75 million years old, about 10 million years before the die-off," Atterholt said. "One of the really interesting and mysterious things about enantiornithines is that we find them throughout the Cretaceous, for roughly 100 million years of existence, and they were very successful. We find their fossils on every continent, all over the world, and their fossils are very, very common, in a lot of areas more common than the group that led to modern birds. And yet modern birds survived the extinction while enantiornithines go extinct."

One recently proposed hypothesis argues that the enantiornithines were primarily forest dwellers, so that when forests went up in smoke after the asteroid strike that signaled the end of the Cretaceous - and the end of non-avian dinosaurs - the enantiornithines disappeared as well. Many enantiornithines have strong recurved claws ideal for perching and perhaps climbing, she said.

"I think it is a really interesting hypothesis and the best explanation I have heard so far," Atterholt said. "But we need to do really rigorous studies of enantiornithines' ecology, because right now that part of the puzzle is a little hand-wavey."

We know we are getting somewhere with the science part of it all when 'hand-wavey' is seen as a problem.

"What is most exciting, however, are large patches on the forearm bones. These rough patches are quill knobs, and in modern birds they anchor the wing feathers to the skeleton to help strengthen them for active flight. This is the first discovery of quill knobs in any enantiornithine bird, which tells us that it was a very strong flier." Paper. (open access) '" Jessie Atterholt, J. Howard Hutchison, Jingmai K. O'Connor. The most complete enantiornithine from North America and a phylogenetic analysis of the Avisauridae. PeerJ, 2018; 6: e5910 DOI: 10.7717/peerj.5910 More.

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See also: Mystery: ENST comments on the fossil African turaco found in North America at 52 mya '

Shaking the bird family tree: African-type bird fossil from 52 mya found in North America. In this case, what the fossil record tells us poses a problem for biogeography (the distribution of life forms worldwide over time). At 52 million years ago, North America was thousands of kilometres from Africa. Did the birds migrate? Could they?

Reptile had bird-like head 100 million years before birds


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Physicists: New approach to antimatter offers promising results
Wed, 14 Nov 2018 00:38:51 +0000

dimensional reduction/David Weir

According to the Standard Model of our universe, beginning with the Big Bang, there is no difference between matter and antimatter (although they annihilate each other on contact). Why then do we see all matter, no antimatter? A group of physicists decided to test a new theory: From ScienceDaily:

About ten picoseconds after the Big Bang - right about the time the Higgs boson was turning on - the universe was a hot plasma of particles.

"The technique of dimensional reduction lets us replace the theory which describes this hot plasma with a simpler quantum theory with a set of rules that all the particles must follow," explains Dr. David Weir, the corresponding author of the article.

"It turns out that the heavier, slower-moving particles don't matter very much when these new rules are imposed, so we end up with a much less complicated theory."

This theory can then be studied with computer simulations, which provide a clear picture of what happened. In particular, they can tell us how violently out of equilibrium the universe was when the Higgs boson turned on. This is important for determining whether there was scope for producing the matter-antimatter asymmetry at this time in the history of the universe using the Two Higgs Doublet Model.

"Our results showed that it is indeed possible to explain the absence of antimatter and remain in agreement with existing observations," Dr. Weir remarks. Importantly, by making use of dimensional reduction, the new approach was completely independent of any previous work in this model.

If the Higgs boson turned on in such a violent way, it would have left echoes. As the bubbles of the new phase of the universe nucleated, much like clouds, and expanded until the universe was like an overcast sky, the collisions between the bubbles would have produced lots of gravitational waves. Researchers at the University of Helsinki and elsewhere are now gearing up to look for these gravitational waves at missions such as the European LISA project. Paper. (open access) '" Jens O. Andersen, Tyler Gorda, Andreas Helset, Lauri Niemi, Tuomas V. I. Tenkanen, Anders Tranberg, Aleksi Vuorinen, David J. Weir. Nonperturbative Analysis of the Electroweak Phase Transition in the Two Higgs Doublet Model. Physical Review Letters, 2018; 121 (19) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.121.191802 More.

Well, we shall see! This feels so much more like science than hearing someone merely make a claim that there must be another universe out there that is all antimatter.

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See also: Clue about antimatter: Does it depend on how neutrinos behave vs. antineutrinos?

Improved precision in matter-antimatter difference does not resolve mystery

and

Experiments on antimatter are now possible?


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Plants have developed complex strategies to get ants to help them
Wed, 14 Nov 2018 00:20:25 +0000

Ants shelter in the hollow thorns and thus defend the plant/(c) Field Museum, Corrie Moreau

From ScienceDaily:

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences breaks down the genetic history of 1,700 species of ants and 10,000 plant genera, and the researchers found that the long history of ant and plant co-evolution started with ants foraging on plants and plants later responding by evolving ant-friendly traits.

'

"There are a number of different structures plants make that are specific for ant use," explains Nelsen, who led the study with his fellow Field Museum researchers and co-authors Rick Ree and Corrie Moreau. "Some plants have evolved features that persuade ants into defending them from attack from other insects and even mammals. These include hollow thorns that ants will live inside, or extra nectar on leaves or stems for the ants to eat. Some ants will just cheat and take the nectar and run, but some will stick around and attack anything that tries to hurt the plant," explains Nelsen. Other plants get ants to help them move their seeds around, by bribing them with rich food packets attached to seeds called elaiosomes. "The ant will pick up the seed and carry it away, eat the food packet, and discard the seed - often in a nutrient-rich area where it'll grow better, and since it's farther away from its parent, they won't have to compete for resources.

But how did these complex relationships get started?

The team mapped the history of plant's ant-friendly traits and of ants' plant use onto these family trees - a process called ancestral state reconstruction. They were able to determine when plants began relying on ants for defense and seed distribution - and it looks like ants have relied on plants for longer than plants have directly relied on ants, since plants didn't evolve these specialized structures until long after ants had been relying on them for food and habitat.

So it looks as though the plants came up with the idea. Which makes sense because they are stuck in one place but ants are mobile.

And while there has been a mutually beneficial relationship between ants and plants over the years, from an evolutionary standpoint, groups of ants that eat, forage on or nest in plants don't seem to be any better off than those that do not. "We don't see parts of the ant family tree that includes ants relying on plants for food or habitat diversifying or growing any faster than those parts of the tree that lack these interactions," says Nelsen. "This study matters because it provides a glimpse into how these widespread and complex interactions evolved." Paper. (paywall) '" Matthew P. Nelsen, Richard H. Ree, Corrie S. Moreau. Ant'"plant interactions evolved through increasing interdependence. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018; 201719794 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1719794115 More.

Bet we haven't heard the last of this story.

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See also: Plants use flashes of fluorescent light to warn leaves against insects

and

Do host plants tell insects whether to stay or leave?


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How to Engage in Argumentum ad Gannitum
Tue, 13 Nov 2018 23:00:17 +0000

Today I coin a new Latin phrase in honor of our frequent interlocutor daveS. Here it is: Argumentum ad Gannitum '" the argument from whining. ('Gannitum' being Latin for 'whining').

The argument from whining takes this form:

Person A makes an argument supported by logic and evidence that he believes compels a conclusion.

Person B, instead of making a counter argument based on logic and evidence, says something like "Admit that you may be wrong" or "It's not my job to show you how you are wrong."

Here is an example from a recent combox discussion with daveS:

Barry makes the following argument:

Either there is a God or there is not. If there is a God, meaning is possible. If there is no God, meaning is not possible. Let us, therefore, assume for the sake of argument that an atheist such as yourself is correct. There is no God. Therefore, meaning is not possible.

daveS responds:

Barry, Is it possible that you are wrong?

No, really, that is his response. Check it out here.

Uh, yeah dave, it is certainly possible that I am wrong. But no one will ever know that I am wrong if all you do is whine about my argument instead of attempt to rebut it.

In fairness, dave later made a run at trying to show meaning in a meaningless universe. It amounted to 'I know there is no meaning, but I feel like there is, so there is.'

 

 

 

 

 


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BBC: Chimpanzees show empathy and altruism just like humans
Tue, 13 Nov 2018 17:52:44 +0000
Pan troglodytes & Pan paniscus.jpg

common chimpanzee and bonobo/Chandres William H. Calvin, CC

The BBC has also thought that chimpanzees were entering the Stone Age.

And now:

Eminent anthropologist Frans de Waal explains that politicians have a lot to learn from how chimpanzees show empathy. "How chimpanzees reveal the roots of human behaviour" at BBC

Reality: Chimpanzees don't seek humans out the way dogs do. In many ways, dogs are more like humans than chimpanzees are and better able to communicate with us emotionally. Dogs don't seek out chimpanzees, come to think of it, though recently, some researchers needed to convince themselves that something like that was happening between monkeys and wolves. (Uh, no.)

Physical resemblance is apparently not all it's cracked up to be. Serious study might be worthwhile.

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See also: A top anthropology finding of year show humans cognitively closer to dogs than chimps

Anthropologist does not see chimpanzees as fuzzy humans If a well-to-do idler wants to pretend that his spaniel requires psychoanalysis, life's rotten for that individual dog. But dogs are hardly going extinct. The fact that chimpanzees are an endangered species means that it's important to understand them as animals who need a specific habitat, not as pre-humans entering the Stone Age.

Intelligence tests unfair to apes?

and

Are apes entering the Stone Age?


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Making epigenetics (non-Darwinian evolution) instead of genetics destiny
Tue, 13 Nov 2018 13:39:20 +0000

It had to happen: Someone making epigenetics stand in for the selfish gene, an all-purpose gene-splain:

If epigenetic research utilizing these new technologies will successfully shed some light in disease prevention, diagnosis, and therapy, then the research can expand to study epigenetics related to human behavior and moods. Aggression, violence, adultery, sexual preferences, risk-taking, happiness, depression, and even spirituality may all be affected by gene regulation, including epigenetics, via mechanisms not yet precisely defined. There also is much evidence that diet, sleep, fasting, exercise, and stress regulate gene expression but here, too, the way they do it needs to be explored.

Incorporating these new epigenetic technologies when examining the multiple biological factors that regulate gene expression will better illuminate whether or how environmental factors and lifestyles can modify what we classically believed was our DNA destiny. John D. Loike, "The New Frontiers of Epigenetics" at The Scientist

So now we will have an epi-genesplain? Um, '

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See also: There's a gene for that... or is there?

Actual epigenetics, not your destiny:

Epigenetics: Roundworm study focuses on health effects transmitted through sperm

Nicotine effects persist through several generations of mice, via sperm Researcher: 'Not much had been known about the effects of paternal smoking on their children and grandchildren. Our study shows that paternal nicotine exposure can be deleterious for the offspring in multiple generations.'

Epigenetics is involved in strengthening memory

Anthropologist John Hawks is cool toward epigenetics shedding light on evolution. Responses like this from a usually level-headed thinker mainly demonstrate that epigenetics is likely to upset quite a few applecarts.

Peter Ward: Epigenetics explains why there are fewer 'species' than we think

and

Epigenetic change: Lamarck, wake up, you're wanted in the conference room!


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Logic & first principles: Analogy, Induction and the power of the principle of identity (with application to the genetic code)
Tue, 13 Nov 2018 11:28:54 +0000

One of the commonest objections we meet when we discuss design inferences - especially concerning the genetic code, is that a claim is "just an analogy" (with implied conclusion that analogies are weak or fallacious). This then extends to inductive arguments used. This common error must be corrected and (as will be shown) the principle of distinct identity helps us to do so.

Before we show that, let us pause to note from the Stanford Enc of Phil, just to counter-weight the tendency of many objectors to be quickly dismissive of anything said by "one of those IDiots" without bothering to actually address the substantial issue at stake:

>>An analogy is a comparison between two objects, or systems of objects, that highlights respects in which they are thought to be similar. Analogical reasoning is any type of thinking that relies upon an analogy. An analogical argument is an explicit representation of a form of analogical reasoning that cites accepted similarities between two systems to support the conclusion that some further similarity exists. In general (but not always), such arguments belong in the category of inductive reasoning, since their conclusions do not follow with certainty but are only supported with varying degrees of strength. Here, 'inductive reasoning' is used in a broad sense that includes all inferential processes that 'expand knowledge in the face of uncertainty' (Holland et al. 1986: 1), including abductive inference.

Analogical reasoning is fundamental to human thought and, arguably, to some nonhuman animals as well. Historically, analogical reasoning has played an important, but sometimes mysterious, role in a wide range of problem-solving contexts. The explicit use of analogical arguments, since antiquity, has been a distinctive feature of scientific, philosophical and legal reasoning. This article focuses primarily on the nature, evaluation and justification of analogical arguments. Related topics include metaphor, models in science, and precedent and analogy in legal reasoning . . . >>

Notice, analogical reasoning "is fundamental to human thought" and analogical arguments reason from certain material and acknowledged similarities (say, g1, g2 . . . gn) between objects of interest, say P and Q to further similarities gp, gp+1 . . . gp+k. Also, observe that analogical argument is here a form of inductive reasoning in the modern sense; by which evidence supports and at critical mass warrants a conclusion as knowledge, but does not entail it with logical necessity.

How can this ever work reliably?

By being an application of the principle of identity.

Where, a given thing, P, is itself in light of core defining characteristics. Where that distinctiveness also embraces commonalities. That is, we see that if P and Q come from a common genus or archetype G, they will share certain common characteristics that belong to entities of type G. Indeed, in computing we here speak of inheritance. Men, mice and whales are all mammals and nurture their young with milk, also being warm-blooded etc. Some mammals lay eggs and some are marsupials, but all are vertebrates, as are fish. Fish and guava trees are based on cells and cells use a common genetic code that has about two dozen dialects. All of these are contingent embodied beings, and are part of a common physical cosmos.

This at once points to how an analogy can be strong (or weak).

For, if G has in it common characteristics {g1, g2 . . . gn, | gp, gp+1 . . . gp+k} then if P and Q instantiate G, despite unique differences they must have to be distinct objects, we can reasonably infer that they will both have the onward characteristics gp, gp+1 . . . gp+k. Of course, this is not a deductive demonstration, at first level it is an invitation to explore and test until we are reasonably, responsibly confident that the inference is reliable. That is the sense in which Darwin reasoned from artificial selection by breeding to natural selection. It works, the onward debate is the limits of selection.

With this in mind, we can take a fresh approach to looking at the implications of the genetic code:

The Genetic Code in action

 

Where also:

The Genetic code uses three-letter codons to specify the sequence of AA's in proteins and specifying start/stop, and using six bits per AA

So that:

Protein Synthesis (HT: Wiki Media)

Where we may see, with Yockey, the wider communication system involved:

Yockey's analysis of protein synthesis as a code-based communication process

Comparing, a version of Shannon's archetype:

A communication system

. . . and reckoning with the possibility of layering of protocols:

Now, many codes are based on s-t-r-i-n-g data structures (which are foundational to data structures in computing), in which elements from an alphabet are chained to create unique words and messages which are then integrated into a meaningful framework that describes or states or instructs. Text in English and computer code are classic examples. Where, too, such are in fact manifestations of language (and intelligence).

Thus, we see, famously, from Crick in his March 19, 1953 letter to his son Michael, on p. 5:

Crick's letter

What is the challenge, here?

Simple: the genetic code is at the heart of the cell's functionality, and is thus antecedent to and an enabling causal factor for cell based life. That code implies a code/protocol based communication system (as Yockey expands) and is inherently linguistic. Language is a characteristic of intelligence and so we manifestly have an epistemic right to infer from the DNA code to intelligence and design as causal to cell based life.

Dismissive arguments on analogy notwithstanding. END


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