The Possible Role of Nondisjunction in Evolution

A common objection to natural selection as the mechanism for evolution is that while it may act as an editor, it cannot be an author. That is, it may change genetic information through mutation, but it cannot cause genetic information to increase. And they are right, but genetic information can still increase across the generations of organisms through a process called nondisjunction. This occurs when an unequal amount of genetic material is passed on to two daughter cells after the process of a cell dividing. One cell will have slightly less genetic material, and the other will have slightly more. The most famous example of nondisjunction is the kind that causes Down’s Syndrome, when a human embryo receives three 21st chromosomes from its parents rather than the normal number of two. But nondisjunction can occur regarding any chromosome in any organism and may not even involve chromosomes at all, such as in the case of bacteria.

Let us imagine that three billion years ago, a bacterial cell was dividing, but because of a chemical malfunction, slightly less genetic material ended up in one daughter cell, and slightly more in the other. The cell with less material will probably end up smaller, while the cell with more material may end up larger, because a greater amount of genetic material can produce a greater amount of proteins, the molecules that provide the structural basis for all organisms. Larger cells (assuming the reproductive potential of the different cells was the same) would have an advantage over smaller cells in the race to gain food, thus natural selection would favor larger cells.

If this process was repeated many times, then it is possible that over a billion years a bacterial cell would have emerged that had hundreds of times more genetic material than the first primitive organisms that arose on Earth about four billion years ago. And that would have enabled the evolution of more complex organisms than bacteria…including us!

Vaccines and the failure of doing research on the internet

Reality trumps any number of fallacious arguments made to support a preconceived position based on one or more lies. This is why I am a hard-core empiricist and reject the philosophical school of rationalism, which claims that human reason alone can produce truth. Instead, it has only produced conflict.

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Copyright abuse

First, read this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DMCA

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a United States copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures (commonly known as digital rights management or DRM) that control access to copyrighted works. It also criminalizes the act of circumventing an access control, whether or not there is actual infringement of copyright itself. In addition, the DMCA heightens the penalties for copyright infringement on the Internet[citation needed]. Passed on October 12, 1998, by a unanimous vote in the United States Senate and signed into law by President Bill Clinton on October 28, 1998, the DMCA amended Title 17 of the United States Code to extend the reach of copyright, while limiting the liability of the providers of on-line services for copyright infringement by their users.

The DMCA’s principal innovation in the field of copyright, the exemption from direct and indirect liability of internet service providers and other intermediaries, was adopted by the European Union in the Electronic Commerce Directive 2000. The Copyright Directive 2001 implemented the 1996 WIPO Copyright Treaty in the EU.

Takedown notice

Google asserted misuse of the DMCA in a filing concerning New Zealand’s copyright act,[25] quoting results from a 2005 study by Californian academics Laura Quilter and Jennifer Urban based on data from the Chilling Effects clearinghouse.[26] Takedown notices targeting a competing business made up over half (57%) of the notices Google has received, the company said, and more than one-third (37%), “were not valid copyright claims.”[27]

The original purpose of copyright laws was to protect creativity by allowing artists, both of visual arts and music, to make their fair share of money from selling their own creations. It is certainly unethical for anyone to claim another’s original work as his own and then make a profit from that work being sold.

Too often, however, what happens is that people wanting to censor a viewpoint they find offensive make claims based on their interpretation of the DMCA to claim copyright infringement that is not valid or, even if technically valid, really is not fair at all.

Here is a perfect example. Watch this video by YouTube user cdk007:

Did you enjoy it? Maybe if you were a younger person you were bored by the classical music track that was used for it. But in fact, that was not the original music that was used for the video. Instead, cdk007 used this music first:

That DOES sound 100% better, in my opinion. But soon after cdk007 posted the video about evolution, he was slapped with a DMCA takedown notice and he was forced to replace the soundtrack. But he never claimed the song “Jesus of Suburbia” was his creation, nor did he make money from that video. I doubt that Green Day, the artist that made the song, was to blame for what happened, it seems so unlike them!

What happened in this case was de facto censorship. The DMCA actually SUPPRESSES creativity and freedom of speech and it should be repealed.

The arrogance of Ken Ham

First, read what Ham, the founder of Answers in Genesis, wrote about Bill Nye, the Science Guy:

http://blogs.answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2012/09/26/my-challenge-to-bill-nye/

First, the AP article quotes Nye as saying the following:

If we raise a generation of students who don’t believe in the process of science, who think everything that we’ve come to know about nature and the universe can be dismissed by a few sentences translated into English from some ancient text, you’re not going to continue to innovate.

So, here is my challenge (one that I gave to the reporter a few times). I want Bill Nye to name one invention—one piece of technology—that would not have been able to be invented without the inventor believing in evolution. Just name one!

But Nye said nothing specific about man-made technology or invention relating to evolution in his quote, did he? I looked up the word “innovate” in an online dictionary.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/innovate

transitive verb
1
: to introduce as or as if new
2
archaic : to effect a change in <the dictates of my father were … not to be altered, innovated, or even discussed — Sir Walter Scott>
intransitive verb
: to make changes : do something in a new way

There are many ways to innovate, but the surest way to do so is to have a mind unfettered by dogma of any kind. Thus anything that limits free thinking limits innovation. It’s not just about Bible based religions. Communist states in the 20th Century also limited innovation and interfered directly with scientific advancement if it seemed to contradict Marxist dogmas.

Ken Ham continues:

Usually, when I have challenged an evolutionist to come up with one example of something invented for mankind that would not be possible without accepting evolution, I get the following response: “Understanding resistance in bacteria and thus being able to invent drugs.”

But as we have written on our website many times before, antibiotic resistance has nothing to do with molecules-to-man evolution. Whether one is an evolutionist or a creationist, a researcher can observe the resistance and even understand issues of mutations and other things that can cause the resistance. Such research is dealing with observational science.

The bastard just does not get it, does he? Bill Nye was not merely talking about defending evolution, opposing Creationism, or even rejecting religious dogmas of any kind. He was talking about the dogmatic, bigoted thinking at the very root of Creationist and fundamentalist views.

antibiotic resistance has nothing to do with molecules-to-man evolution.

Perhaps, but what about all those Bible verses that depict people as being demon possessed, when they could have merely suffered from mental diseases? Had we never looked harder at such people in the real world we all live in, we might not have found ways to treat brain disorders and we would still be in fear of demons. Indeed, we have found no evidence of demons, but we have clear evidence of mental disorders and have used science, with its INNOVATIVE thinking, to enable people with these disorders to enjoy productive lives. THAT is what Nye could have been talking about!

Screw you and your (bowel) movement, Ham! Your challenge is bogus!

An Explanation about Science

Science is an empirical enterprise and thus it works through the examination of the material universe and all that exists within it. Through detailed observation, experimentation, debate, and tentativeness, science advances one step at a time through producing more and more detailed and accurate portrayals of what exists in the universe. And it is precisely because of the principles of peer review and the willingness to reconsider long accepted ideas that errors made in science can be corrected and new findings revealed and confirmed that overthrow long accepted theories.

The problem arises when certain people, adhering to extremist dogmas whether of religion or political ideology, find the findings of modern science in conflict with their beliefs. They could do the seemingly obvious thing of abandoning or modifying their beliefs to fit the evidence that all can see. Sadly, some do not. Instead, they make claims that oppose the scientific consensus, and then to explain why most in the scientific community do not accept these claims, they make additional claims of a conspiracy theory that seems to involve a great many people, which is itself unlikely in the extreme.

There is nothing wrong with proposing alternative hypotheses to explain phenomenon in the universe, and we must encourage this as much as possible for science to advance. But what must not be allowed is the assertion as dogma of anything that claims to be scientific but has never been tested through the long and slow process of peer review and subsequent examination by independent observers.

The arrogance of those who would deny the value of scientific processes, often by those who themselves have little understanding of how science works, just illustrates the incredible power of the Dunning–Kruger effect, as described here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect  We must understand that such is the danger of these attitudes that they should not be tolerated for long once they are fully exposed for what they really are.

Examples of a such unscientific and pseudo-scientific dogmas are Creationism, Global Warming Denialism, AIDS Denialism, and anti-Vaccinationism. Often, these stem from legitimate problems with a procedure, such as faulty vaccinations discovered to occationally cause problems in children, and are exaggerated far beyond rational bounds and turned into an absolute (“Vaccinations should no longer be given to children at all because a few became autistic a few months after their injections!”).  We must remember that the ONLY way for anything to advance in science is by the accumulation of empirical data, and repeated testing through peer review. Nothing else will ever suffice, because no other method has ever been consistently shown to work at revealing facts.

P Z Myers pushes Atheism, not science, in this talk.

Science is a methodology for studying the universe and everything in it, as well as the conclusions reached over time from repeated use of that methodology. That’s all it has ever been and ever should be.

The traditional view of God is of a Creator of the universe. He is not a part of the universe, otherwise he could not have been its Creator, therefore science can never study him. And what science cannot study, it has no business making judgements on.

That religion has wrongfully intruded on scientific matters with ancient creation myths means that science CAN rightfully debunk those myths. It does not follow, however, that Theism itself has been disproven by science, because science cannot do that. It can only show what dogmas in religion that relate to things in the universe are wrong, but not dogmas  about anything outside the universe!

And that is why P Z Myers’ assertion here that “if you’re not an Atheist, you aren’t doing science right” is really a case of arrogant dogmatism on his part and need not be taken seriously by anyone who knows what the real conception of God by most theistic religions is.

A question of incest

I just got a comment from someone named Sally. Rather than approve it where it was placed, I will copy and paste it here, along with the identifying information on it, and attempt to respond to its  points in red.

Sally
sallyfancy@hotmail.com
200.127.106.252

I have a question for you, please don’t consider that I’m attacking you.

Usually when someone opens with something like that, he is about to make a statement that really IS an attack. 

I like how you expose ignorants and bigots in this blog, but I fail to notice something important now you’re bringing up the subject of homophobia. As a bisexual woman myself in a same-sex long term relationship, I am definitely against homophobia, and as a liberal person I condemn any kind of discrimination. I’m also agnostic, so I don’t refrain from critizing religions. So far I guess we pretty much agree in our views, but I haven’t seen you (maybe you did and I’m not aware) critizing the criminalization of consensual incest between adults.

Of course, she would equate the prohibition of incest with the prohibition of homosexuality, since both were condemned in the Bible and in all Abrahamic religions. But just because the Bible condemns something doesn’t make that thing good for atheists to accept. Unless you think atheists should also accept stealing and murder.

Please note that I’m not talking about incestuous rape or incestuous abuse of minors, only consensual incest and between consenting adults. I’m sure you’re aware that consenting adults involved in consensual incestuous relationships are going to jail, punished by archaic laws because of a victimless crime like this.

I wonder if she saw my blog entries about prostitution. But even prostitution is not the same as incest, just as homosexuality is not the same as incest.

I’m not incestuous myself nor planning to ever be, but seeing how a good number of people is threatened with a long imprisonment (until 14 years in Canada, for example) only for loving a person of their family causes me too much indignation, even more noting that almost none of these self-avowed liberal activists seem to care or speak in their favour.

Loving a family member? Sorry, but in fact I do not equate “love” with having sex. If you do, I think you have some serious issues.

Please, if you really hate hypocrisy and bigotry this much, I encourage you to show support to consenting incestuous adults, they deserve to live and love in freedom.

Hypocrisy is when you profess a system of values that you fail to live up to in practice. Since I have never professed support for legalizing incest, I would not be a hypocrite. As for bigotry, that charge would make sense only if it could be proven that incest was something as fundamental to human nature as skin color. All the evidence indicates just the opposite. Unlike homosexuals, who are compelled by their nature to engage in sexual relations with members of their own gender, there is no evidence that people who practice incest are obeying some natural instinct. In most cases, there are plenty of other possible mates for the incestuous partners to avoid having sex with each other.

And I beg you not to perpetuate the offensive “deformed offspring” myth, deformed is NEVER an aceptable [sic] word to qualify a human being. 

Why not? It’s only descriptive of the person’s physical nature. It’s not a racial slur like the N-word is for black people of African descent.

Yes, disabled children may be born from incestuous couples, but most of consenting incestuous couples are NOT interested in having offspring and even if they can’t help loving a relative they’re consciously against inbreeding, besides sex is not longer only for procreation purposes (my partner and I are both women and still have sex, that’s pretty much self-explanatory), and contraceptives and sterilization exist for a good reason.

You earlier called the issue of “deformed offspring” a myth, then admitted it is not so. It seems interesting that you try to make incest more palatable by claiming that incestuous couples need not have children, but in fact there are cases of such couples who do, and often those children ARE deformed. Indeed, ONE such child resulting from such a union would be one too many!

Consensual incest between adults cause no harm to anybody, people shouldn’t be punished for loving or having sex with another consenting adult. Please, help us end the hatred and spread the tolerance, it’s very much appreciated.

Incest is harmful because it limits genetic diversity in the offspring that result from it, and thus it negates the most obvious evolutionary benefits of sexual reproduction, indeed making it pointless.  The accumulation of recessive genetic mutations results in a inbred line being weakened over time. Consider this sad case:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inbreeding#Royalty_and_nobility

  • One of the most famous example of a genetic disorder aggravated by royal family intermarriage was the House of Habsburg, which inmarried particularly often. Famous in this case is the Habsburger (Unter) Lippe (Habsburg jaw/Habsburg lip/”Austrian lip”) (mandibular prognathism), typical for many Habsburg relatives over a period of six centuries.[24] The condition progressed through the generations to the point that the last of the Spanish Habsburgs, Charles II of Spain, could not properly chew his food.[25]
  • Besides the jaw deformity, Charles II also had a huge number of other genetic physical, intellectual, sexual, and emotional problems. It is speculated that the simultaneous occurrence in Charles II of two different genetic disorders: combined pituitary hormone deficiency and distal renal tubular acidosis could explain most of the complex clinical profile of this king, including his impotence/infertility which in the last instance led to the extinction of the dynasty.

And it’s not just humans that are affected badly by inbreeding. Animals like dogs in Japan have also suffered as well!

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/28/business/28dogs.html?pagewanted=all

Rare dogs are highly prized here, and can set buyers back more than $10,000. But the real problem is what often arrives in the same litter: genetically defective sister and brother puppies born with missing paws or faces lacking eyes and a nose.

There have been dogs with brain disorders so severe that they spent all day running in circles, and others with bones so frail they dissolved in their bodies. Many carry hidden diseases that crop up years later, veterinarians and breeders say.

Kiyomi Miyauchi was heartbroken to discover this after one of two Boston terriers she bought years ago suddenly collapsed last year into spasms on the living room floor and died. In March, one of its puppies died the same way; another went blind.

Ms. Miyauchi stumbled across a widespread problem here that is only starting to get attention. Rampant inbreeding has given Japanese dogs some of the highest rates of genetic defects in the world, sometimes four times higher than in the United States and Europe. 

<snip>

Hirofumi Sasaki, a pet store owner in the western city of Hiroshima, has seen so many defective dogs that last year he converted an old bar into a hospice to care for them. So far he has taken in 32 dogs, though only 12 have survived.

One is Keika, a deaf 1-year-old female dachshund with eyes that wander aimlessly. Her breeder was originally selling her for about $7,500 because she is half-white, a rare trait in dachshunds.

“That is an unnatural color, like a person with blue skin,” Mr. Sasaki said.

The breeder told Mr. Sasaki that he had bred a dog with three generations of offspring — in human terms, first with its daughter, then a granddaughter and then a great-granddaughter — until Keika was born. The other four puppies in the litter were so hideously deformed that they were killed right after birth. 

Therefore, my decision is that I will NOT support legalizing incest. I don’t want to see any more people like Charles II or those unfortunate puppies in the future.