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Uncommon Descent
Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Mass slaughter: Can well-intentioned humanism replace values thought to be rooted in reality?
Sun, 22 Jul 2018 12:55:50 +0000

Frank Turek.jpg Ken Francis, hat tipped below, writes to inform us of this vid featuring Frank Turek, of I don't have enough faith to be an atheist fame, debating non-theist anthropologist Dennis N ¸rmark last year:

N ¸rmark:

In his role as a critic of literature, and formerly also of television, for both the newspaper, 'Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten', and from 2015 also, 'Politiken', he has to this day been an incisive critic of societal and political issues in a direct and unapologetic fashion.

Turek remarks:

Denis Normark fails to give a good argument as to why in his worldview if Stalin decided that the meaning of his life is to kill whoever gets in his way it would not be wrong.

What do you think? Traditionally, people have believed that God or the gods opposed mass slaughters like that of Stalin or Pol Pot. They were considered to be against the very order of things. If all we have to go on, to oppose them, is 'incisive' criticism, ''direct and unapologetic,' why should we assume that our values are any better than theirs?

Hat tip: Ken Francis

See also: Frank Turek: Why does the Bible not talk about dinosaurs?

Vid: Frank Turek on Darwinism's effect on morality, reason, and the ever-elusive God of the Gaps

and

Video: Frank Turek and David Silverman Face Off On The Existence of God, With Themes Relating to Intelligent Design


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Researcher: The search for dark matter has become a 'quagmire of confirmation bias'
Sat, 21 Jul 2018 20:03:59 +0000

3-D impression of dark matter via Hubble

From science writer Bruce Dorminey at Forbes:

Time may be running out on the search for the cosmos' exotic dark matter. Decades after the first searches for dark matter's hypothetical exotic particle counterparts, researchers are mostly at a loss to explain why there still has been no direct detection. That is, one that could explain why such unseen, dark matter particles only appear to weakly interact with normal matter.

'

McGaugh says one huge problem is that while dark matter theory is 'confirmable' it is not 'falsifiable' as a scientific theory should be.

'There is no clear way to know [that] what you're looking for - but failing to find - doesn't exist at all,' said McGaugh. 'If you're convinced it must [exist], you'll go on looking forever.'

There's no exit strategy, says McGaugh. Indeed, he says his colleagues have heedlessly blown through many experiential markers which they have chosen to ignore.

'The search for dark matter has become a quagmire of confirmation bias,' McGaugh concludes. More.

So many research areas in science today are hitting hard barriers that it is reasonable to think that we are missing something.

See also: Physicists devise test to find out if dark matter really exists

Largest particle detector draws a blank on dark matter

What if dark matter just doesn't stick to the rules?

A proposed dark matter solution makes gravity an illusion

and

Proposed dark matter solution: 'Gravity is not a fundamental governance of our universe, but a reaction to the makeup of a given environment.'


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Stasis: Dinosaur-era baby snake looks just like modern ones
Sat, 21 Jul 2018 19:56:27 +0000

late Cretaceous baby snake in amber/ Yi Liu

From George Dvorsky at Gizmodo:

Scientists working in Myanmar have uncovered a nearly 100-million-year-old baby snake encased in amber. Dating back to the Late Cretaceous, it's the oldest known baby snake in the fossil record, and the first snake known to have lived in a forested environment.

'

The discovery of a baby snake fossilized in amber shows that early snakes had spread beyond swamps and sea shores, finding their way into forested environments. What's more, these ancient snakes bore a startling resemblance to those living today'-a classic case of evolution not having to fix something that ain't broke. These findings were published today in Science Advances. More.

'a classic case of evolution not having to fix something that ain't broke.'?

Notice how, whether things change or stay the same, evolution ('Evolution?'), supposedly blind, random, and purposeless becomes a person who thinks, plans, and fixes ' Darwin engaged in the same sort of talk:

It may be said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinizing, throughout the world, every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good; silently and insensibly working, wherever and whenever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being in relation to its organic and inorganic conditions of life.

That's probably why evolution can be, for so many, a religion'-but one with very fluid moral obligations. One wonders, under what circumstances could evolution become a science again?

See also: Gunter Bechly: 'Living fossils' under massive attack (unpopular implications)

Lizards and snakes backdated to Permian era, lizards lost or changed limbs many times

Colorful moth wings dated back to nearly 200 million years ago

and

Stasis: Life goes on but evolution does not happen


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Speciation: A bread yeast and a yeast that causes infections turn out to be the same "species"
Sat, 21 Jul 2018 18:24:13 +0000
A collage of five fungi (clockwise from top-left): a mushroom with a flat, red top with white-spots, and a white stem growing on the ground; a red cup-shaped fungus growing on wood; a stack of green and white moldy bread slices on a plate; a microscopic, spherical grey semitransparent cell, with a smaller spherical cell beside it; a microscopic view of an elongated cellular structure shaped like a microphone, attached to the larger end is a number of smaller roughly circular elements that collectively form a mass around it

examples of fungi/Borg Queen (CC)

From Sukanya Charuchandra at The Scientist:

Two species of yeast, one of which is used in the biotechnology and food industries to make bioethanol and sourdough bread, while the other causes yeast infections, have been found to be one and the same, according to research published in PLOS Pathogens today (July 19). And, the researchers report, fungi from both settings are similarly resistant to antifungal drugs.

The differences in the appearance of the sexual and asexual forms of the species and the underdeveloped nature of molecular methods were likely responsible for the varying names of the same organism. 'It's too common in fungi,' says Antonis Rokas, a comparative fungal genomics expert at Vanderbilt University who was not involved in this study. However, things are changing, with greater efforts being made 'to use as many lines of evidence as we can' when identifying a fungal species. More.

The concept of a 'species,' as in On the Origin of Species, may well be in itself a dated idea, especially where fast-reproducing unicellular life forms are concerned. A measure that capture fluidity is needed.

See also: Study: Species are 'compact clusters in the vastness of empty sequence space.'

Monkeys more closely related to sister species than same species in different locations?

Endangered giant Chinese salamander is at least five different 'species'

and

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


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Cosmologist: Philosophy is essential to the development of physics.
Sat, 21 Jul 2018 16:08:46 +0000
foto

Carlo Rovelli

From Carlo Rovelli at Scientific American:

Against Philosophy is the title of a chapter of a book by one of the great physicists of the last generation: Steven Weinberg.1 Weinberg argues eloquently that philosophy is more damaging than helpful for physics'-it is often a straightjacket that physicists have to free themselves from. Stephen Hawking famously wrote that 'philosophy is dead' because the big questions that used to be discussed by philosophers are now in the hands of physicists.2 Neil de Grasse Tyson publicly stated: ''we learn about the expanding universe, ' we learn about quantum physics, each of which falls so far out of what you can deduce from your armchair that the whole community of philosophers ' was rendered essentially obsolete.'3 I disagree. Philosophy has always played an essential role in the development of science, physics in particular, and is likely to continue to do so.

'

Nobody puts this better than Einstein himself: 'A knowledge of the historic and philosophical background gives that kind of independence from prejudices of his generation from which most scientists are suffering. This independence created by philosophical insight is'-in my opinion'-the mark of distinction between a mere artisan or specialist and a real seeker after truth.'9 It is sometimes said that scientists do not do anything unless they first get permission from philosophy. If we read what the greatest scientists had to say about the usefulness of philosophy, physicists like Heisenberg, Schr dinger, Bohr and Einstein, we find opposite opinions to those of Hawking and Weinberg. More.

Rovelli is, of course, correct. On a practical level, it is our philosophy that determines whether evidence for our beliefs is necessary and what can be accepted as evidence. The proponents of the multiverse and panpsychism (everything is conscious) for example, do not believe evidence is necessary for their beautiful concepts and that is a philosophical decision. Those who believe that the universe shows no evidence of fine-tuning have decided to ignore a large body of evidence because it is not satisfactory for their purposes. It is no use making these decisions and then claiming that one has no use for philosophy. They are classic philosophical decisions.

See also: Carlo Rovelli: Theories of everything ill-conceived but we can learn to understand quantum mechanics

and

Does physics deconstruct our sene of time?


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Octonions: Do eight-dimensional numbers underlie the universe?
Sat, 21 Jul 2018 15:50:04 +0000

octonion fanocube/jgmoxness (CC)

From Natalie Wolchover at Quanta:

Complex numbers, suitably paired, form 4-D 'quaternions,' discovered in 1843 by the Irish mathematician William Rowan Hamilton, who on the spot ecstatically chiseled the formula into Dublin's Broome Bridge. John Graves, a lawyer friend of Hamilton's, subsequently showed that pairs of quaternions make octonions: numbers that define coordinates in an abstract 8-D space.

Matemaical approaches to physics were left behind during the pursuit of answers from collides but, as Wolchover writes, no particles beyond the Standard (Big Bang) model have been found." One rearcher, Cohl Fury,

has since produced a number of results connecting the octonions to the Standard Model that experts are calling intriguing, curious, elegant and novel. 'She has taken significant steps toward solving some really deep physical puzzles,' said Shadi Tahvildar-Zadeh, a mathematical physicist at Rutgers University who recently visited Furey in Cambridge after watching an online series of lecture videos she made about her work.

Furey has yet to construct a simple octonionic model of all Standard Model particles and forces in one go, and she hasn't touched on gravity.

Yes, gravity is the tough one. But this is fun:

When you double the dimensions with each step as you go from real numbers to complex numbers to quaternions to octonions, she explained, 'in every step you lose a property.' Real numbers can be ordered from smallest to largest, for instance, 'whereas in the complex plane there's no such concept.' Next, quaternions lose commutativity; for them, a b doesn't equal b a. This makes sense, since multiplying higher-dimensional numbers involves rotation, and when you switch the order of rotations in more than two dimensions you end up in a different place. Much more bizarrely, the octonions are nonassociative, meaning (a b) c doesn't equal a (b c). More.

For more number fun, see also: At Vox the number zero is weird

Is celeb number pi a 'normal' number? Not normal. And things get worse. Surely this oddity is related in some way to the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics.

Here's some zero fun: Is zero even?

and

Must we understand 'nothing' to understand physics?


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What's wrong with social psychology, in a nutshell
Fri, 20 Jul 2018 23:25:08 +0000

From Ben Shapiro at Daily Wire:

You've undoubtedly seen those preening headlines from major outlets about how conservatives are more 'authoritarian' by nature than Leftists. See, for example, here and here and here and here and here and here. But it turns out that this is nonsense. Such studies are generally vague and deliberately constructed to make it appear that conservatives are more 'authoritarian' than Leftists. In reality, authoritarian personality types exist across the political spectrum. All you have to do is change the incentive structure in the questions, and you'll suddenly find Leftists who hate freedom and conservatives who love it.

Jesse Singal of New York Magazine has a long and worthwhile piece about the scientific flaws in the authoritarian modeling.

'

Confirmation bias has allowed too many members of the Left to ignore embarrassing scientific reversals like this one from 2016, when a study suggesting that conservatives were psychotic was actually recalibrated to show the reverse. More.

The principal question is and what to do about the fact that social psychology is '- with a straight face '- thought of as a science. In the meantime, we can afford a cackle or two at the people who wonder earnestly why the public does not trust science.

See also: How political bias affects social science research

Stanford Prison Experiment findings a 'sham' '" but how much of social psychology is legitimate anyway?

A BS detector for the social sciences

All sides agree: progressive politics is strangling social sciences

and

Study of causes of science skepticism sails right by the most obvious cause


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At the BBC: Still working on that ol' time machine'
Fri, 20 Jul 2018 23:03:01 +0000
File:Wooden hourglass 3.jpg

passage of time, imaged/S. Sepp

From the BBC:

Albert Einstein thought the three dimensions of space were linked to time - which serves as a fourth dimension. He called this system space-time, and it's the model of the Universe that we use today.

But Einstein also thought it was possible to fold space-time, creating a shortcut between two distant locations. This phenomenon is called a wormhole, and it can be visualised as a tunnel with two openings, each emerging at different points in space-time.

Wormholes might exist naturally in the cosmos; indeed, scientists in Russia are trying to use radio telescopes to detect them. But using wormholes for time travel won't be straightforward.

Indeed not. Unless everything is absolutely determined, some wise person from the future has already gone back through a wormhole and altered the present so that we can't go anywhere. Lee Smolin of the Perimeter Institute says time travel is probably impossible:

"If what's real is the present moment and the past is only real in the sense that there are memories and records of it in the present, and the future is still to exist' there's nowhere to go."

But a colleague, Neil Turok, invokes quantum mechanics.

"I think it's clear to me that there is some probability of us going backwards in time," he says. "In quantum physics, nothing is impossible - particles travel through walls!" More.

Sure they do, but do they travel back into the mediaeval era?

It's fun thinking about this stuff though.

See also: Is time travel a science-based idea? (2017)

Apparently, a wormhole is our best bet for a time machine (2013)

and

Does a Time Travel Simulation Resolve the 'Grandfather Paradox'?


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Tiny pieces of bread found from 14,500 years ago, predating known agriculture
Fri, 20 Jul 2018 22:40:51 +0000

From Tobias Richter and Amaia Arranz-Otaegui at Sapiens:

The Natufian, dated to 11,700'"15,000 years ago, is often described as an important cultural precursor to the Neolithic era. During the Natufian, the world's earliest stone houses, grinding tools, and sickle blades appear in large numbers in the Levant, suggesting that the hunter-gatherers here included plants, cereals amongst them, more frequently in their everyday diet. Natufian hunter-gatherers were also more sedentary than preceding Paleolithic societies, which may have pushed them onto a road of no return toward plant cultivation and agriculture.

'

When Arranz-Otaegui told her that it was from a 14,500-year-old hunter-gatherer site in Jordan, it was Carretero's turn to be stunned. The site was thousands of years older than ‡atalh y k.

'

With the discovery of bread at Shubayqa 1, we now know a little bit more about past foodways in southwest Asia. But this just leads us to ask new questions. Was bread already a staple food during the Natufian'-or perhaps even earlier? Or was it a rare treat? Did people fall in love with bread, and did this spark their interest in producing more flour, perhaps incentivizing them to start cultivating plants? What were the effects of bread making and its consumption on Natufian and Neolithic societies? More.

Still searching for the Missing Link, ever further in the past'

‡atalh y k.

Also: Stone tools put early hominids in China 2.1 million years ago 'After learning how to make stone flakes sharp enough to slice meat off animals' carcasses around 2.6 million years ago, African hominids may have had the survival skills to fan out into Asia and reach Shangchen by 2.1 million years ago, Dennell says.' (Bruce Bower) https://www.sciencenews.org/article/shangchen-stone-tools-put-early-hominids-china-earlier

See also: Alert! Common sense has invaded anthropology. Researcher claims: Chimps 'r NOT us'

and

How did stone tools get to the Philippines 700 kya?


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Different psychiatric disorders linked to the same genes?
Fri, 20 Jul 2018 22:22:06 +0000

File:DNA simple.svg From Mark Fischetti at Scientific American:

Bipolar disorder, for example, was more similar to schizophrenia than to major depression even though clinicians may link bipolar disorder and depression, based on their symptoms. These insights could possibly reveal new treatments, says neurogeneticist Daniel Geschwind of the University of California, Los Angeles, one of the investigators. More.

It's becoming increasingly evident (see the stories below) that a great deal of what we need to know about a person (or any life form) is not in their genes.

See also: At PLOS: 'Genes '" way weirder than you thought'

Bale monkeys more closely related to sister species than same species in different locationsThe 'biological species concept' is yet another textbook dead zone.

Girl got mostly a double set of her dad's genes, is almost a twin. She has some problems but she is 11 years old. Yes, that was the sound of another lectern splintering in the near distance.

Almost one in five genes' coding status is unresolved Researchers: We believe that the three reference databases currently overestimate the number of human coding genes by at least 2000, complicating and adding noise to large-scale biomedical experiments.

and

Do all genes affect every complex trait? Veronique Greenwood: The roots of many traits, from how tall you are to your susceptibility to schizophrenia, are far more tangled. In fact, they may be so complex that almost the entire genome may be involved in some way


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