davegodfrey: Coelacanth (Science)
     Conservapaedia, that bastion of idiocy got its arse handed to it when trying to pick fights with scientists over the Long Term Evolutionary Experiment . This is a multi-million generation breeding experiment involving bacteria, that turned up all sorts of interesting things, including some novel characters of the sort the average creationist claims can't exist. Knowing where to pick its fights its gone after that well-known shaky theory, beloved of Liberals, Relativity.

Andrew Schafly & Co. vs. Physics. Fight! FIght! Fight!

I'm not a physicist, but even I can see most of this is bollocks, and if a physicist can point out to me where I'm going wrong I'd be very grateful.

"The theory of relativity is a mathematical system that allows no exceptions. It is heavily promoted by liberals who like its encouragement of relativism and its tendency to mislead people in how they view the world.[1] Here is a list of 29 counterexamples: any one of them shows that the theory is incorrect."

Now I'm no physicist, but at a cursory glance even I can tell half of this is just crap.
  • The Pioneer anomaly.
  • Anomalies in the locations of spacecraft that have flown by Earth ("flybys").[2]
And how large are these anomalies? I have no idea what caused this- but it could be something to do with the spacecraft itself, unobserved bodies, etc. Its interesting its not been seen with the other probes or indeed planets
  • Increasingly precise measurements of the advance of the perihelion of Mercury show a shift greater than predicted by relativity, well beyond the margin of error.[3]
  • The discontinuity in momentum as velocity approaches "c" for infinitesimal mass, compared to the momentum of light.
  • The logical problem of a force which is applied at a right angle to the velocity of a relativistic mass - does this act on the rest mass or the relativistic mass?
I've no idea. I was never very good at physics. Perhaps the physicists have worked this out? Have you asked them?
  • The observed lack of curvature in overall space.[4]
Space is really, really big. You won't believe how mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you might think its a long way to the shops, but you can't see the curvature of the Earth at that scale, and that's peanuts compared to space.
  • The universe shortly after its creation, when quantum effects dominated and contradicted Relativity.
We know that QM and relativity don't mesh together. Just because at the very small it doesn't work doesn't mean its not a good theory. it explains lots of things at the very big.
  • The action-at-a-distance of quantum entanglement.[5]
  • The action-at-a-distance by Jesus, described in John 4:46-54.
1. This is another QM vs GR argument. 2. You're taking the word of a book that thinks locusts have four legs against that of mathematics?
  • The failure to discover gravitons, despite wasting hundreds of millions in taxpayer money in searching.
We can't find it therefore it doesn't exist. Gravitons are really had to see. Hell, gravitational waves are really hard to see- you need huge laser beams and supernovae to detect any sign of them. I'm not surprised they're elusive. And aren't gravitons a QM thing anyway? Does relativity require that they exist?
  • The inability of the theory to lead to other insights, contrary to every verified theory of physics.
Well, mainly the things it explains are really big, and really far away. Just because 20th Century physics got obsessed over atoms doesn't mean there aren't things being done with relativity. And are you seriously suggesting that "Not been helpful = Not true" Seriously?
  • The change in mass over time of standard kilograms preserved under ideal conditions.[6]
I think that has rather more to say about what the standard kilogram is made of than it does about black holes, etc, etc.
  • The uniformity in temperature throughout the universe.[7]
Isn't the CMB data a prediction of relativity? Isn't that why this was written?
  • "The snag is that in quantum mechanics, time retains its Newtonian aloofness, providing the stage against which matter dances but never being affected by its presence. These two [QM and Relativity] conceptions of time don’t gel."[8]
Either relativity is wrong or QM is wrong. Which would you rather. (I'm going to ask this question again later).
  • The theory predicts wormholes just as it predicts black holes, but wormholes violate causality and permit absurd time travel.[9]
Just because something is absurd, doesn't mean it isn't true. QM comes up with some ridiculous predictions. And we've seen them happen.
  • The theory predicts natural formation of highly ordered (and thus low entropy) black holes despite the increase in entropy required by the Second Law of Thermodynamics.[10]
2nd law only applies to closed systems. Black holes are not a closed system- stuff falls in, and Hawking Radiation means that stuff falls out. You've tried arguing this one with biologists against evolution. What makes you think physicists will roll over? When you lose to biologists about physics don't pick fights with physicists on the same turf...
  • Data from the PSR B1913+16 increasingly diverge from predictions of the General Theory of Relativity such that, despite a Nobel Prize in Physics being awarded for early work on this pulsar, no data at all have been released about it for over five years.
According to Wikipedia "In 2004, Taylor and Joel M. Weisburg published a new analysis of the experimental data to date, concluding that the 0.2% disparity between the data and the predicted results is due to poorly known galactic constants, and that tighter bounds will be difficult to attain with current knowledge of these figures." So perhaps because there are some things we haven't got nailed down quite so accurately as we'd like (including "g", the gravitational constant) the data doesn't fit the predictions. Predictions which are presumably based on constants which aren't as accurate as we'd like leading to... Predictions that don't quite fit the data perhaps?
  • The lack of useful devices developed based on any insights provided by the theory; no lives have been saved or helped, and the theory has not led to other useful theories and may have interfered with scientific progress.[11] This stands in stark contrast with every verified theory of science.
Really? What about GPS?  And how many peoples lives have been saved by heliocentrism?
  • Relativity requires different values for the inertia of a moving object: in its direction of motion, and perpendicular to that direction. This contradicts the logical principle that the laws of physics are the same in all directions.
  • Relativity requires that anything traveling at the speed of light must have mass zero, so it must have momentum zero. But the laws of electrodynamics require that light have nonzero momentum.
  • Unlike most well-tested fundamental physical theories, the theory of relativity violates conditions of a conservative field. Path independence, for example, is lacking under the theory of relativity, as in the "twin paradox" whereby the age of each twin under the theory is dependent on the path he traveled.[12]
  • The Ehrenfest Paradox: Consider a spinning hoop, where the tangential velocity is near the speed of light. In this case, the circumference (2πR) is length-contracted. However, since R is always perpendicular to the motion, it is not contracted. This leads to an apparent paradox: does the radius of the accelerating hoop equal R, or is it less than R?
I have no idea. But there's all kinds of weird stuff predicted by QM too. Though I'd be interested to see what explanation a physicist has for this. I'm sure there is one.
  • The Twin Paradox: Consider twins who are separated with one traveling at a very high speed such that his "clock" (age) slows down, so that when he returns he has a younger age than the twin; this violates Relativity because both twins should expect the other to be younger, if motion is relative. Einstein himself admitted that this contradicts Relativity.[13]
As I understood it the twin who travels very fast is the one who doesn't age. Time for him has slowed down relative to the other one. I could be wrong, but just because it makes your head hurt to think about it doesn't mean its wrong.
  • Based on Relativity, Einstein predicted in 1905 that clocks at the Earth's equator would be slower than clocks at the North Pole, due to different velocities; in fact, all clocks at sea level measure time at the same rate, and Relativists made new assumptions about the Earth's shape to justify this contradiction of the theory; they also make the implausible claim that relativistic effects from gravitation precisely offset the effects from differences in velocity.[14]
Do they? Do they really? And what shape is the Earth? Precisely?
  • Based on Relativity, Einstein claimed in 1909 that the aether does not exist, but in order to make subatomic physics work right, theorists had to introduce the aether-like concept of the Higgs field, which fills all of space and breaks symmetries.
Even I know that the aether was predicted to exist as something for light to travel through. Its not like the Higgs field. Which might not exist anyway. Not every model of QM needs a Higgs Boson.
  • Minkowski space is predicated on the idea of four-dimensional vectors of which one component is time. However, one of the properties of a vector space is that every vector have an inverse. Time cannot be a vector because it has no inverse.
I find it hard to believe that Minkowski would have got published if he couldn't account for this.
  • It is impossible to perform an experiment to determine whether Einstein's theory of relativity is correct, or the older Lorentz aether theory is correct. Believing one over the other is a matter of faith.
Michelson and Morely would disagree I think.
  • In Genesis 1:6-8, we are told that one of God's first creations was a firmament in the heavens. This likely refers to the creation of the luminiferous aether.
Does it now. Because as I understood it the Israelites believed that the heavesn were a dome and the stars were nailed on. Perhaps thats what the "Firmament" is?
  • Despite a century of wasting billions of dollars in work on the theory, "No one knows how to solve completely the equations of general relativity that describe gravity; they are simply beyond current understanding."[15}
No-one knows how to solve the Navier-Stokes equations. No-one knows if the Riemann Hypothesis is true. No-one knows if super-symmetry is correct. "There's stuff we don't know! It must be wrong!" This is, frankly anti-intellectualism and anti-knowledge at its most sickening.
Comments, especially welcome, as I've cobbled this together after a pint or three, and have, frankly no idea what I'm talking about. Although I have listened to more episodes of "In Our Time", so I'd like to think I had a layman's idea of roughly what these scientist fellows are talking about.
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davegodfrey: Coelacanth (Science)
Apparently this bunch of clowns has won a Quality Badge for "Learning Outside The Classroom". Except, as noted by several people, its got a somewhat questionable attitude to science. Its a creationist zoo. You have to dig fairly deep to get to the creationist stuff, and its probably something they aren't allowed to mention too much in their school visits, the worksheet on "Adaptation" doesn't mention evolution, but at KS2 (7-12 year olds) you wouldn't really expect it to. However there's no mention of evolution or classification as subjects in either the GCSE (15-16 year olds) or AS/A-Level (17-18) workshops. Animal welfare, conservation, genetics and farming all get mentioned, but not evolution or biodiversity. I wonder why.

Of course by the time you've got to this section you'll have noticed the red section marked "Evolution and Creation". Guess which side of the fence they sit on. Taking their stance on the difference between reptiles and mammals we can see that they're both factually incorrect, and creationist (I know, I know, hardly unusual), but they wouldn't be demanding that mammals and reptiles were so radically different if they weren't trying to push their agenda. SO I'll push mine back a little.

1. Reptiles have horny or scaly skin. Mammals have fur or hair.

True. Fur is one of the defining features of mammals. But fur and scales are both made from keratin. (Alpha and Beta keratin in the case of reptiles. Alpha keratin only in the case of mammals)

2. Mammals have a single type of skin cell for colour. Reptiles have 3 types of skin cell for colour.

Well, given that they have different skin structures- reptiles having scales and mammals a glandular skin I'm not surprised. But these are modern mammals, and modern reptiles we're talking about here. The last common ancestor between the two groups would have been about 300 million years ago. (Although Noah's Ark don't accept this dating methodology).

3. Reptiles have low metabolism and require less energy. Mammals have high metabolism.

4. The body temperature of reptiles varies according to their environment (they are 'cold-blooded'). Mammals are able to maintain a constant temperature (they are 'warm-blooded').

Birds also have a high metabolism. And beta keratin. And not all reptiles are cold-blooded. Leatherback turtles can maintain a body temperature above that of their environment. So do Tuna and Great White Sharks. There was a nice paper in Science that showed that the mosasaurs, plesiosaurs and pliosaurs were very probably warm-blooded.

5. Reptiles (but not tortoise/turtles, snakes or crocodilians) have a "third eye", known as a parietal or pineal eye. It has a cornea, lens and photoreceptors. Mammals have only a parietal gland, used for endocrine production.

So that's the Tuatara, and the lizards that aren't snakes then. If its been lost in crocs, turtles and snakes why not mammals? Lineages lose features through evolution all the time. Whales don't have external back legs. Stellar's Sea Cow didn't have any fingers. So what?

6. Reptiles have small, relatively even teeth with single roots; they are replaced often. Mammals have different types of teeth with multiple roots - incisors, canines, premolars and molars - and replace their teeth only once.

And we have a sequence of fossils that show how this feature was acquired. And while reptiles don't have quite the variety of tooth morphology in their jaws that mammals do there's still a fair amount going on. Look at a T. rex jaw, there are big teeth and little teeth, and they're in different parts of the jaw doing different things. But the main reason this is important is because mammals, and their more reptilian ancestors evolved chewing. Most reptiles don't chew. And you need to have your teeth occluding properly to be able to chew effectively. To do that you can't be replacing teeth continuously, you'd have gaps all over the place. So continuous replacement doesn't become an option, but diversification of tooth morphology is suddenly a very real proposition.

7. Reptiles have 3 bones in the lower jaw: the dentary (holding the teeth), the quadrate and the articular. Mammals have only one lower jaw bone.

8. Reptiles' ears have only one bone, the stapes. Mammals have 3 bones, (stapes, malleus, incus), and the very complicated organ of Corti.

These two are again closely related. The malleus and the incus are the quadrate and the articular. Again there's a whole series of fossils that you can follow showing how the jaw joint became involved in hearing and the dentary enlarged and a new jaw joint evolved. One lovely name for an early mammaliaform (now sunk into synonomy more's the pity) was Diarthrognathus or "Two Jointed Jaw", because that's exactly what it had, a quadrate/articular joint and a dentary/squamosal one.

9. The reproductive system of male reptiles includes a hemi- penis. This consists of two penises, which are used singly and repeatedly to fertilise several of a female's eggs.

And most birds don't have penises at all (ducks are an occasionally quite frightening exception). Penises come and go, grow bones and lose them, are co-opted from all sorts of different tissues and structures.

10. Most reptiles lay eggs. Mammals do not.

ALERT! ALERT! TAXONOMY FAIL! One word. Monotremes. Platypuses and Echidnas lay eggs.

11. Reptiles do not usually guard their eggs or care for their young. Mammals all have milk glands and suckle their young.

Again milk production is one of the defining features of mammals. Its in the name! Sadly we can't see how it appeared, because the tissues don't fossilise. I don't see how its a problem. Birds have feathers.But they're still vertebrates.

12. The sex of the unborn young of reptiles is determined by external temperature. Hot temperatures result in more females.

Only in some reptiles. In others it is determined by genes. And in birds its a gene. Interestingly there are some similarities between the sex determining genes of birds and monotremes. Evidence (along with the egg thing) of shared ancestry between the two groups.

13. Mammals breathe by way of a diaphragm in their chest (the thorax). Reptiles have no diaphragm and breathe very differently, with their cheeks and mouth.

And in the case of alligators and crocodiles with a through-flow system like that of birds.

14. Reptiles have a 3-chambered heart, except crocodilians which, like mammals, have a 4-chambered heart. Since their hearts cannot pump blood far upwards, reptiles move close to the ground (they 'creep').

Eh? I wouldn't describe a Komodo Dragon as "creeping". But as reptiles don't have a high metabolism they don't need so much oxygen, so they don't need to separate the two halves of the heart (and very little mixing of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood actually goes on thanks to complex valves). Even with their more inefficient hearts reptiles can be pretty active when they want to be.

15. The legs of reptile are splayed out from the body. The legs of mammals are positioned under the body.

Except for dinosaurs (including birds), lots of early crocodiles, modern crocs in a hurry. Oh, and Platypuses and Echidnas. They have a sprawling gait too. But aren't they mammals?

I've actually been trying to work out what kind of creationists the Noah's Ark Zoo people are. They don't seem to accept that the world is 6,000 years old, like AiG do. But they certainly don't like the answer radiometric dating gives. And most bizarre of all is their take on the fossil record- it records the recolonisation of the world after the flood with animals and plants, and as each group became abundant enough to fossilise that's when it turned up in the rock record, despite always having been there. Its a hideous fudge that isn't obviously your typical YEC stuff, and as such means I'm sure these guys are vilified by the AiG crowd. And yet its also at odds with reality. As someone on Pharyngula said "halfway between right and wrong is still wrong".

Oh and that cool new paper on hot-blooded mosasaurs? Your reference is:

Bernard, A. et al. (2010) Regulation of Body Temperature by Some Mesozoic Marine Reptiles. Science, 328, 1379 - 1382

Oh, and you know what really sticks in my craw? The Horniman Museum doesn't have a badge. Bastards.
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)

H/T to Pharyngula, as always...
davegodfrey: Coelacanth (Science)
As previously mentioned Nature published on a couple of transitional flatfishes. The National Geographic uses this as a chance to take a dig at the Discovery Institute. Casey Luskin (a lawyer, not a biologist) is outraged I tell you, outraged that the NG suggests that Intelligent Design is really creationism. No dear, it is. The reason you refuse to answer questions about the nature of the designer is that as soon as you did you'd be outed as a bunch of Creationists who won't even answer questions about how old you think the Earth is.

In fairness to Luskin the NG doesn't actually quote anyone who identifies themselves as cdesign proponentsists. However Luskin then goes off on one about how the NG says that sudden evolutionary changes are inconsistent with gradualistic evolution, but are what we see in the fossil record. Unfortunately the debates between Punctuated Equilibria and more gradualistic interpretations of evolution are rather more involved than either NG or Luskin seem to realise. What often happens when an evolutionary novelty appears is that you get a rapid radiation of all sorts of interesting organisms doing different things, and eventually things settle down, and some lineages die out. The spottiness of the fossil record, and the discontinuities of sediment deposition being what they are, for us to see gradualistic change you need rather rare circumstances and lots of fossils. Trilobites are a good example, showing both "Punc Eq" and gradualistic changes.

Of course this ignores the "one man's gradualism is another man's Punc Eq"- neontologists would say that 60,000 years is a very long time, but a palaeontologist might not see a gap twice as long as this in a stratigraphic column. Then there's Dawkins' argument that Gould wasn't actually saying anything new (there are passages in Darwin's work pointing out that rates of evolution are not constant).

Luskin then goes on to criticise the actual paper itself. Unfortunately I'm not sure he's read it. (I have, its really rather good- if short, and generally very clear.) Heteronectes and Amphistium are transitional. The eyes are not on the same side of the head as in modern derived forms, but the whole head is asymmetric. Some modern flatfish have one eye on the "top" of the skull and one in the usual place. So we have a transition. "Normal" fish-->Heteronectes/Amphistium (asymmetric skulls)-->Spiny Turbot (one eye on top)-->Derived flatfish.

There are derived flatfish that are contemporaries of these two genera. Luskin (and predictably the conventional creationists) then use a variant of the "why are there still monkeys" non-argument, and Luskin proposes his own hypothesis, that the two genera are actually going the other way, and are derived from normal flatfish. The little cladogram that Friedman includes in the paper immediately disproves that one. In fact if he'd found that these fishes nested deep within the flatfishes it would be bigger news, because it would mean that we really don't understand flatfish evolution- rather than the fact that we had a fairly good idea what must have happened, but didn't have the fossils to demonstrate it.

The paper finally mentions that:
"The sudden appearance of anatomically modern pleuronectiform groups in the Palaeogene period matches the pattern repeated by many acanthomorph clades. Inferring interrelationships between higher groups in this explosive radiation has proved difficult, and an unresolved bush persists."
This is of course seized on by Luskin as an admission that the evidence for evolution is weak, and Friedman has overstated his case. Er no it isn't. Its pointing out that while we now have a nice little evolutionary sequence for one particular group of fishes, there are still unresolved questions about fish evolution. What these fossils have not revealed (yet) is how the flatfishes fit within this wider group of fishes. The Tree of life page for the Percomorpha (the group in question) shows what Friedman means by a bush. Everything is mushed together what is called a "polytomy", and it isn't at all clear what the relationships between the various groups are.
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Dave Godfrey)
Andrew Schlafly (Phyllis Schlafly's son) recently founded Conservap(a)edia. It is (as you might guess) an alternative to wikipedia because of the "liberal bias" it apparently has.

Dr. Richard Lenski is running the Long Term Evolutionary Experiment (LTEE). For the past 20 years he has been growing a culture of E. coli in a medium where glucose is  the limiting growth factor. Lenski has twelve evolving populations , and every 500 generations samples are taken and frozen giving them a "fossil record" palaeontologists would sell their mothers to have. The aims of the LTEE is to observe patterns of contingency and convergence. So far the bacteria have been converging- they're considerably bigger than they used to be, and show a wide variety of other adaptations that have appeared in parallel. However...

With his collaborators, Zachary Blount and Christina Borland, Lenski has discovered that E. coli in one of the populations has evolved the ability to take up and metabolise citrate (known as Cit+). The citrate is in the medium to help the bacteria take up iron, but never normally enters the cell. Importantly E. coli can't eat citrate in aerobic conditions- its one of the defining characteristics of E.coli. (It seems there have been two other reports of Cit+ in E. coli and they've both come from swapping plasmids with other bacteria). The bacteria in the experiment lack plasmids, and only reproduce asexually. The scientists used their fossil record to investigate the process of Cit+ evolution, ruling out plasmids and contamination, and then tracking the process of Cit+ evolution. It seems there are at least 3 mutations involved, they didn't happen all at once, the earliest bacteria able to survive on citrate did so very poorly, and research remains to see what exactly is going on at the genetic level.

The paper is available online (pdf). You can also read abstracts and some pdfs from all the publications to come out of the LTEE.

The fact that one population is now significantly different from the others makes it very interesting to watch, because they've got a really visible, and important example of contingency. So lots to look forward to, and plenty more research to do. Carl Zimmer's been keeping a good blog on this, and Zachary was kind enough to turn up in the comments, offered to answer questions, and point people to other papers from the LTEE. Unfortunately a creationist turned up who didn't understand the meaning of the word "goal", so the whole thing turned into a car-crash. Zachary should have a guest post up there soon, dealing with some of the questions. (Excuse me I appear to be getting teary-eyed at a scientist engaging with the public- its so beautiful when it happens.)

Anyway, why did I mention Mr Schlafly? Well over at Conservapedia he wants Lenski to provide him with 20 years worth of data. He has it seems "skimmed" the paper and quoting PNAS's rules thinks he can demand this. Lenski politely points out that 1. the data is in the paper, and 2. he isn't saying what Schlafly thinks he's saying. This isn't enough for Schlafly, who complains that he must have access because they're taxpayer funded, and they sometimes say "data not shown". Lenski replies again, and I can't summarise it other than to say that Schlafly gets his arse handed to him on a plate. There are some beautiful quotes which I shall share, but you should read the exchange, at RationalWiki.

"If you have not even read the original paper, how do you have any basis of understanding from which to question, much less criticize, the data that are presented therein?"
"Am I or the reporter for NewScientist somehow responsible for the confusion that reflects your own laziness and apparent inability to distinguish between a scientific paper, a news article, and a confused summary posted by an acolyte on your own website?"
"But perhaps because you did not bother even to read our paper, or perhaps because you aren’t very bright, you seem not to understand that we have the actual, living bacteria that exhibit the properties reported in our paper, including both the ancestral strain used to start this long-term experiment and its evolved citrate-using descendants."

And for my American friends, an explanation of the differences between cricket and baseball. (It certainly explains why I understand cricket better than baseball.)

(Via PharyngulaBad Science, and pretty much everybody else by now.)
davegodfrey: Coelacanth (Science)

Professor PZ Myers blogs at Pharyngula (***Warning: This website contains profanity and may be offensive to some listeners. KKMS politely warn us. It'll be the cephalopods won't it?) .
He's a fairly strident atheist, but more importantly he's an evolutionary biologist working on zebrafish development. He also likes fossils, and is generally fascinated by the natural world.

Dr Geoffrey Simmons is an honorary fellow of the Discovery Institute. (***Warning: This website contains idiocy and may be is offensive to anyone who knows about science.) 
He is a doctor with an interest in disaster medicine and management.

Both were invited on the Jeff and Lee Christian Talk Show, to discuss the evidence for ID and evolution. Simmons didn't like this idea and so demanded that the title be changed to "Is Darwinism a fact or faith issue" at the last minute. (Which was nice of him).

What follows is 40 minutes of creationist trouncing. Its just glorious. Simmons brings up Indohyus and claims this is the only whale ancestor. PZ responds with Pakicetus and Rhodocetus, "but theyz have nao bloholz, and they finz iz funnie?". Simmons it seems has only read a single article in Scientific American about this, and hasn't heard of any of the other whale fossils.

Rapidly backing off he then tries "Groth ov brainz iz complicated. Muzt bin dizignd!". Like I said PZ is a developmental biologist, working on fish brains, teaching college students neuroscience.As he said: "I'm afraid you've stepped right into my field there with that question".

You can't listen to the calls they took afterwards, (someone may make a version covering them too) but the one I heard was entertaining. A chap called in expressing the view that:
"evolution gives us easy justification for passing what we learn about drugs when used on animals to predict how they'll work on people... [and pressing them] on whether we should scrap that belief if we reject evolution."
The hosts response? Affter rambling about taking a "more holistic approach", and "having a doctor who relies on God's guidance" they ask:
"Do you believe there's any use or purpose for theology?"
"As someone who has my bachelor's in theology, I hope so".

PZ's take on this beforejust before and mopping up afterwards.

The Discovery Institute's take on it is here. (archived here 'cos they deleted it).

Download the MP3 here. if the podcast isn't up yet. You know you want to!

Oh, and I want "Your ignorance is not evidence" on a T-Shirt.

davegodfrey: Flying Spaghetti Monster : Touched by his noodly appendage (FSM)
Metro Weird is one feed that everyone should be on. If not for the comedy bylines, then for the stories themselves, everyday tales of naked mountaineers, felons holding up shops with their hats, and most recently a creationist by the name of Chuck Missler. I'm never quite sure where to begin with this nonsense. Let's watch a video. 

Video )


Now I've got that out of my system. We have a problem, you see it took him about ten seconds to say that. It's going to take me an awful lot longer to point out how wrong he is. Its not even an issue that evolution actually addresses, its one that theories of abiogenesis investigate. For this you need to understand some pretty advanced organic chemistry, something I don't know too much about, but I guarantee Chuck here knows an awful lot less.

Life appearing from non-life, well, leaving aside the issues of how one actually defines life, isn't likely to happen again on this planet. You need replicators and some form of metabolic reactions running before you can get to a stage where you have something I'd be happy to say was "alive". You need all sorts of interesting chemistry occuring on tiny scales that will be gobbled up by any passing bacteria as soon as it rears its head. It just isn't going to happen except in very special places. (Like in the various permutations of the original 1950s Miller-Urey experiments, where amino acids and DNA bases have been produced from simpler constituents like ammonia, carbon dioxide and water.)

In a jar of peanut butter? Not bloody likely. In order to get ammonia from air and water you need high temperatures, and a catalyst. Nitrogen likes being nitrogen, water likes being water and they don't want to combine to form ammonia. You need to put a lot of energy into the system in order to push the reaction in the direction you want it to go. Exactly the same is true in the jar of peanut butter. Put it in a reducing atmosphere, pass a few thousand volts through it and you might get some DNA bases out of it. How you'd tell the difference between this and any DNA already in the peanut butter itself I'm not entirely clear.

"The food industry is founded on the fact that evolution doesn't occur". Nope, the food preservation industry is based on the fact that abiogenesis isn't happenning now. Modern medicine is however rather screwed over by MRSA because evolution certainly has happenned.

See how long that took to read. And I certainly glossed over an awful lot of stuff (I bet I made stacks of errors too.)
davegodfrey: Flying Spaghetti Monster : Touched by his noodly appendage (FSM)
Many people think that creationism is largely a problem associated with Christian fundamentalist. This is not true, the Muslims have 'em too. Probably the most famous in the West is Harun Yahya, newsworthy recently for sending unsolicited copies of "The Atlas of Creation" to thousands of researchers and institutions across Europe and America. I've not seen a copy, but its supposedly very big *800 pages) and very glossy (lots of pictures many of which violate copyright- so the book won't be in Waterstone's any time soon.).

Anyway what's this got to do with Wordpress? Someone's written something that's pissed him off, and he's got a court in Turkey to block the whole of wordpress. Here's the letter to the site owners. . The letter says that Yahya's feeling sre hurt and they've tried taliking to them, but they haven't heard back, so they've got to see the judge. This chap thinks its collateral damage from fighting between two islamic groups. The only site the plaintiffs names specifically that's in english describes Yahya's organisation as an armed sex cult, and that these people escaped jail because the victims dropped out due to being blackmailed. Is this libellous? I honestly don't know. Most of the named blogs have a single article, and they all use one or two of the same photos, and from what little French I remember I suspect there's sockpuppetry going on there anyway

The thing descends into farce with the plaintiff's signoff:


Does this mean its my fault if LJ gets blocked in Turkey?


davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
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