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:

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 ultimate take down of Intelligent Design

Intelligent design

Image via Wikipedia

At the Panda’s Thumb blog, a commenter asked a simple question:

Does anyone have an example of something which is not “intelligently designed”? In Paley’s exposition of the “watchmaker” argument, he contrasts a watch with a stone. But the problem for a traditional theist is that God is the Creator of all things, including rocks. So, to be fair, I suppose that the request should include also unreal, hypothetical things. But the only unreal things that I can think of – centaurs, for example – are intelligently designed. (Which, by the way, shows that intelligent design is not sufficient to explain existence.)

So, what is the difference that intelligent design makes?

He got this reply:

The designer herself is, presumably, not intelligently designed. Hence her existence disproves ID because a non-designed living thing exists. Of course, conversely, her non-existence would show that all living things are designed and hence that ID is true.



Later, my seeing that hit me like a truck going 100 MPH. I then said:

Amazing! If I weren’t already a non-theist, such a simple but profound argument would have probably converted me from any God-centered religion you could name! You show that Intelligent Design, already impossible to support empirically, can’t even be supported by reason. It is simply WORTHLESS!

The New Atheists step up their campaign against the NCSE and the BCSE

This is the direct sequel to:

Once again, P Z Myers and Jerry Coyne have decided to push for the elimination of all mentioning of religion in scientific organizations, including the NCSE (National Center for Science Education, the American organization defending evolution) and the BCSE (British Centre for Science Education, the version of the NCSE in the United Kingdom).

Open letter to the NCSE and BCSE
Dear comrades:

Although we may diverge in our philosophies and actions toward religion, we share a common goal: the promulgation of good science education in Britain and America—indeed, throughout the world.  Many of us, like myself and Richard Dawkins, spend a lot of time teaching evolution to the general public.  There’s little doubt, in fact, that Dawkins is the preeminent teacher of evolution in the world. He has not only turned many people on to modern evolutionary biology, but has converted many evolution-deniers (most of them religious) to evolution-accepters.

Nevertheless, your employees, present and former, have chosen to spend much of their time battling not creationists, but evolutionists who happen to be atheists.  This apparently comes from your idea that if evolutionists also espouse atheism, it will hurt the cause of science education and turn people away from evolution.  I think this is misguided for several reasons, including a complete lack of evidence that your idea is true, but also your apparent failure to recognize that creationism is a symptom of religion (and not just fundamentalist religion), and will be with us until faith disappears. That is one reason—and, given the pernicious effect of religion, a minor one—for the fact that we choose to fight on both fronts.

The official policy of your organizations—certainly of the NCSE—is apparently to cozy up to religion.  You have “faith projects,” you constantly tell us to shut up about religion, and you even espouse a kind of theology which claims that faith and science are compatible.  Clearly you are going to continue with these activities, for you’ve done nothing to change them in the face of criticism.  And your employees, past and present, will continue to heap invective on New Atheists and tar people like Richard Dawkins with undeserved opprobrium.

We will continue to answer the misguided attacks by people like Josh Rosenau, Roger Stanyard, and Nick Matzke so long as they keep mounting those attacks.  I don’t expect them to abate, but I’d like your organizations to recognize this: you have lost many allies, including some prominent ones, in your attacks on atheism.  And I doubt that those attacks have converted many Christians or Muslims to the cause of evolution.  This is a shame, because we all recognize that the NCSE has done some great things in the past and, I hope, will—like the new BCSE—continue do great things in the future.

There is a double irony in this situation.  First, your repeated and strong accusations that, by criticizing religion, atheists are alienating our pro-evolution allies (liberal Christians), has precisely the same alienating effect on your allies: scientists who are atheists.  Second, your assertion that only you have the requisite communication skills to promote evolution is belied by the observation that you have, by your own ham-handed communications, alienated many people who are on the side of good science and evolution.  You have lost your natural allies.  And this is not just speculation, for those allies were us, and we’re telling you so.

Jerry Coyne

Let’s look at some excerpts from this open letter:

There’s little doubt, in fact, that Dawkins is the preeminent teacher of evolution in the world. He has not only turned many people on to modern evolutionary biology, but has converted many evolution-deniers (most of them religious) to evolution-accepters.

Note that Coyne does not specify that Dawkins has converted all these former evolution-deniers into atheists.

Nevertheless, your employees, present and former, have chosen to spend much of their time battling not creationists, but evolutionists who happen to be atheists.

How so? By not openly supporting atheism?

you have lost many allies, including some prominent ones, in your attacks on atheism.

HA HA HA HA HA HA! So not affirming atheism is the same as attacking it? REALLY?! Show me ONE official statement by the NCSE or the BCSE that attacks or denies atheism. Just one!

your repeated and strong accusations that, by criticizing religion, atheists are alienating our pro-evolution allies (liberal Christians), has precisely the same alienating effect on your allies: scientists who are atheists.

Coyne, you are alienated only because you are so convinced that only atheism is true. But that has nothing to do with teaching science. The fact remains that many children from Christian backgrounds will be learning evolution in schools and if they see a conflict between evolution and the Bible, they will remain Creationists rather than give up their faith and accept evolution. The efforts at accommodation by the NCSE and the BCSE are intended to show that you can choose to be religious and deal with science as it is also. It is YOU that is being intolerant, Coyne! It is YOU that choose to be alienated. You can still advocate atheism on your blog while promoting evolution too. No one in the NCSE or the BCSE is saying you cannot.  So what is the problem?

Then P Z says on his blog:

How often do we have to repeat ourselves? There is no goal of turning the NCSE or the BCSE into an atheist organization; we think having an organization that is honestly neutral on the religious issue is extremely useful in advancing the cause of good science education for all. We want the NCSE/BCSE to support neither atheism nor religion.

You know what? The atheists in this argument have a crystal-clear understanding of the difference between atheism and secularism, and are saying that the science education organizations should be secular. It’s these sloppy accommodationists who have allowed liberal christianity to become their default position who have violated the distinction.

First, no one is asking Myers and other atheists to repeat themselves, so that is just rhetorical crap. Second, the NCSE has made clear its own religious neutrality.

What is NCSE’s religious position?

None. The National Center for Science Education is not affiliated with any religious organization or belief. We and our members enthusiastically support the right of every individual to hold, practice, and advocate their beliefs, religious or non-religious. Our members range from devout practitioners of several religions to atheists, with many shades of belief in between. What unites them is a conviction that science and the scientific method, and not any particular religious belief, should determine science curriculum. (Emphasis mine)

Sorry, but until atheists become the vast majority of American and British people, the screaming about accommodation by atheists is pointless. I just don’t accept it. If the atheists wish to have all science organizations never mention religions or treat any religious people with respect again,  they can push for that. And once they get their way, the political support for scientific organizations will most likely dry up.  And the only ones who gain from that would be Creationists. The atheist fanatics are giving them exactly the talking points they need to fight longer and harder the public relations war over science education!

Please support both the NCSE and the BCSE. Here are their websites:

Making videos for YouTube, finally!

For years, I’ve had a YouTube channel, but lacking a webcam I was unable to make actual videos. So I was content to favorite videos by others and make comments. But that all changed when I finally bought a webcam after several months of hesitation and learned how to edit files on my computer to make videos too.

Here is my first, made purely to test the systems.

Satisfied with that result, I produced this one a couple of days later about one of my favorite topics:

And this will be just the beginning!

Response to the video “Evolution IS a Blind Watchmaker”

The YouTube member cdk007 is well-known for  making videos attacking Creationism/Intelligent Design, and promoting evolution. This is one of his early works and I consider it to be an masterpiece.

But after seeing it several times, I came up with ways to improve it further. Here are quotes from the video in red and my suggestions in blue on how to make the simulation of natural selection upon clocks even more realistic and consistent with how it works on populations of organisms.

Each clock organism consists of 30 gears, 1 ratchet, 7 hands, 1 spring, and one housing.

Each clock organism consists of a random number of  gears, ratchets, hands, springs, and one housing, determined by mutations of the organisms themselves . Reason: Mutations should be allowed to change the number of clock parts to make the process of natural selection even more difficult. Humans have two kidneys but can survive with one and it is perfectly possible that we could have evolved with only one.

Remove 3 at random and arrange them in order of their ability to accurately tell time. The better two clocks kill the worst clock. Mate the surviving two and produce an offspring.  Return all three clocks to the pool and repeat.

Remove 3 at random and arrange them in order of their ability to accurately tell time. The better two clocks kill the worst clock. Mate the surviving two and produce FOUR offspring. The remaining two older clocks are also killed off. Add the four new clocks to the pool and repeat. Reason: Represents the process of overproduction, which is an actual factor for populations of organisms to evolve over time, plus even the most successful organisms eventually die. As long as they are able to reproduce viable offspring first, they may be considered a success. After two “generations”, the population of clocks will have doubled, and so it will randomly split into two populations which will begin to evolve independently, simulating the process of speciation. Further splits occur every two generations. Finally, after TEN generations, all but two populations will be randomly wiped out, simulating a mass extinction. The cycles of two generations and ten generations continue indefinitely. As a result, the surviving populations of clocks diverge in form over time.

It would probably require a much more advanced computer system, with a lot more memory, than the one cdk007 used for his original simulations, but I still think it is worth a try.

The “Health Ranger” attacks vaccines

Imagine the horror of giving a baby a vaccination to protect his health, only to have him become violently ill. Sadly, such things may happen if the vaccines are defective. But when a product is defective, the logical response is to stop using the product for a short time, do an investigation to determine what went wrong with the product, and then replace it with an improved version of the product, NOT ban the product completely and tell people to never use it! But that is exactly what anti-vaxxer loons in Australia are doing!

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The Imminent Demise of Evolution: The Longest Running Falsehood in Creationism (via The Word of Me…)

Whenever you wish to appeal to popular prejudices, lie. And the bigger the lie, the better. The biggest lie of all being that evolution is a theory about to fail. It never has, actually.

The Imminent Demise of Evolution: The Longest Running Falsehood in Creationism Copyright 2002  G.R. Morton. This can be freely distributed so long as no changes are made and no charges are made. In recent reading of Dembski and other ID proponents I saw them make a claim which has been made for over 40 years.  This claim is one that the young-earthers have been making.  The claim is that the theory of evolution (or major supporting concepts for it) is increasingly being abandoned … Read More

via The Word of Me…

The bottleneck effect and the Genesis creation myth

According to the creation myths of the Book of Genesis, humankind is descended from two bottleneck or founder events. The first was when man was created as Adam and Eve (and even Eve was created from a tissue sample from Adam). They had thousands of descendants, including Noah, his wife, their three sons and their sons’ wives. All of humanity after the flood depicted in Genesis at Noah’s time are thus said to be descended from five people at most (Noah, his wife and his sons’ wives, assuming none of the sons’ wives were closely related to Noah or his wife). But remember that they were ultimately descended from ONE PERSON, Adam, who lived only a dozen or so generations before them, so even their genetic diversity would have to have been lower than people living today.

The reduction of a population causes a loss of genetic diversity and makes inbreeding more likely, which itself limits genetic diversity among offspring until mutation and natural selection has had time to increase that diversity.

Considering the diversity of humankind today, one would expect that humans evolved very rapidly after the flood, which would make rejection of evolution by believers in the Bible pointless. How is it that fundamentalists can beleive in rapid evolution within “kinds” over thousands of years, yet deny unlimited and slower evolution over many millions of years?

Because they reject science, of course. Dogma is everything to them, and that’s inexcusible in a society that depends on science for almost everything we have.

The dishonesty and ignorance of the Creationists becomes obvious here:

By comparing DNA from different humans around the world, it has been found that all humans share roughly 99.9% of their genetic material—they are almost completely identical, genetically.7 This means that there is very little polymorphism, or variation. Much evidence of this genetic continuity has been found. 8 examined a 729-base pair intron (the DNA in the genome that is not read to make proteins) from a worldwide sample of 38 human males and reported no sequence variation.

These results are quite consistent with a recent human origin and a global flood. Evolutionary models of origins did not predict such low human genetic diversity. Mutations should have produced much more diversity than 0.1% over millions of years. And yet this is exactly what we would expect to find if all humans were closely related and experienced a relatively recent event in which only a few survived.

Bull$#it. If humans were NOT genetically almost identical, they would not be able to interbreed at all and would have already diversified into various species, like humans and chimps did several million years ago. The fossil record shows that species more closely related to us than chimps became extinct long ago and that our species is only a few hundred thousand years old, having evolved from older ones.

We should also seek to understand genetic evidence in the context of the tower of Babel event. 12 This too seems consistent with Biblical events in Genesis 11. Surely, much research is needed to expand ideas about such genetic evidence to determine its consistency with the Bible and its inconsistency with, for example, the various evolutionary out-of-Africa models. 13

When scientists debate issues, they start with the evidence they have and make their different hypotheses fit the evidence, then look for more evidence to rule out competing ideas. They don’t start with a creation myth that can never be ruled out and assume that any evidence must be forced to fit it!

First Andrew Wakefield, now Peter Duesberg should be next!

It’s no big secret that I despise AIDS denialists who claim scientific credentials. They are the most damnable frauds or idiots on Earth, even worse than global warming denialists or anti-vaccination nuts.

Andrew Wakefield, the one who started the anti-vaccination crusade by attempting to link vaccinations with autism, has been discredited and will no longer be allowed to do any medical work.

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EVERYONE should be vaccinated!

Many people are opposed to vaccinating children, fearing that they might be prone to autism as a result. But there is no clear scientific evidence that autism is a cause of vaccinations. People merely ASSUME that because their children’s autism starts soon after their vaccines are administered, but most children who are vaccinated do NOT get autism. If vaccinations caused autism, then nearly all children vaccinated would be autistic, and we would probably have discovered the agent in vaccinations that cause autism by now. Coincidences often happen, but unless the scientific method confirms the existence of an actual cause for something like autism, a coincidence is all it is. Assuming that a coincidence and the hypothesis resulting from it must be the same as a FACT without confirmation is actually magical thinking that is anti-scientific.

While the cause of autism may be questionable, the danger of viral diseases spreading because of children being left unvaccinated is not. Viruses can only reproduce when they have hosts that they can attack. And every time viruses reproduce, they have a chance of mutation. And when they mutate, they are likely to become more deadly, eventually making the vaccinations obsolete. That will never happen if all children are vaccinated, but it might happen eventually if only some are. Of course, once vaccinations become ineffective because of viral mutations, anti-vaccination nuts will claim they were proven right. Thus, their insane claims are irrefutable.

Even if vaccinations DID cause autism in a few cases, it is better for a child to be autistic than to be DEAD! If people like Jenny McCarthy think otherwise, then as far as I am concerned they can rot in hell!

P Z Myers and his gang wreck a Christian poll

First, read this blog entry from Pharyngula:

Category: Pointless polls
Posted on: May 1, 2009 10:26 AM, by PZ Myers

Can you bear yet another poll today? The initial results of this one, before all of you readers get to work and use your magic clicky fingers, is mildly interesting. The readership of Christianity Today consists primarily of scientific illiterates and wishful dreamers, split between people who seriously believe the earth is 6000 years old, those who think the Bible is a science text and are willing to stretch a metaphor, and fuzzy thinkers who want a god to have guided natural processes.

I imagine the readership here can rock their little world.

What best describes your view of the origins of creation?

Young-earth creationism 29%
Old-earth creationism 28%
Theistic evolution 26%
Naturalistic evolution 4%
I don’t know 7%
None of the above 6%

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Another fake “science” website

This is a direct sequel to:

I’ve discovered another website with a false name:

On its home page it says:

Science: Knowledge and Discovery

Science is the human endeavor to discover truths about the world around us. Scientists seek out answers through observation and experimentation. As we discover more and more, we are able to apply what we’ve learned to develop new technologies and to improve everyday life. But perhaps more importantly, as we gain knowledge through science, we are able to begin satisfying our deep-felt need to know more about ourselves.

Which is absolutely true. But then you start to read deeper. Continue reading

My vision of science

To me, there are only five divisions of natural science: Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Astronomy, and Geology. The subdivisions within those branches and the connections between them illustrate the futility of essentialism.

Physics and chemistry are the “parent” sciences and biology, astronomy, and geology are the “children” sciences that are built on the first two. Parent sciences do not have a historical element, but children sciences do because the physical and chemical laws are applied to deep time to produce natural history. The scientific method is used to define and confirm all physical and chemical laws.

Having a holistic view of the universe, it seems to me that one can only understand it properly by looking at all its component parts and the various ways they can interact, and thus boundaries between different branches of science must ultimately become meaningless. To become an expert in astronomy, for example, without studying geology or chemistry is a waste of time because you would miss the connections between them and thus limit the scope of your research.

A really stupid way to honor Darwin

The HMS Beagle Project

In 2009, the bicentenary of Charles Darwin’s birth we will build a sailing replica of HMS Beagle. An icon of scientific progress, she will circumnavigate the globe in Darwin’s wake, crewed by aspiring scientists and researchers. They will carry out original research both at sea and on land, updating Darwin’s observations, breaking new scientific ground and relating the adventure of science to enthuse a new generation of young students. If you support our vision, contact us, donate to the build fund, request a sponsorship pack, or visit the Beagle Project Shop USA or Europe/Japan, buy the t-shirt and show ’em you want a Beagle sailing the world in 2009.

Why is this idea stupid? Because you can accomplish a lot more scientific research with a modern ship dealing with present day biological issues rather than merely reenacting Darwin’s voyage. Science is not about taking the road already traveled, but going down a previously untraveled path to see what might be found.  I will not contribute a dime to such a dubious project. Indeed, I think it is a SCAM!

Science, natural history, and evolution

Science is a way of knowing about the world that depends constantly on free inquiry, experimentation and empiricism. As such, anything that is established in science has credibility based on the methodology used, not on the word of any individual scientist. It is the ability of other scientists to duplicate the experimental results that one of their number publishes that makes a scientific law credible.

Physics and chemistry are the two foundational sciences on which all others, including astronomy, biology, and geology, are based. Unlike the first two, astronomy, biology and geology also have hypotheses and theories that are historical in nature. The basic assumption is that all physical and chemical laws are constant, remaining the same throughout deep time. Thus, any historical hypothesis or theory, to also be scientific, must be in strict conformance with all the known scientific laws that were previously established as valid via the scientific method.

Understanding this, we can consistently apply all known scientific laws to deep time to both test hypotheses and propose them. For example, the Doppler effect was used to discover that most galaxies were moving away from us and in proportion to their distance from our galaxy. This was defined as Hubble’s Law, which in turn led to the Big Bang theory of cosmic origins. Likewise, repeated experimentation on living animals and plants in which artificial selection is done to change the genetic makeup of their populations in a laboratory setting establishes the validity of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. It stands to reason that if slight changes can be made in populations of organisms in a short period of time, then massive changes indicated by the fossil record should be possible over a long period of time. But to show this may not be possible, we’d have to do additional experiments to attempt to find the limits of genetic and physical change in such a population and thus possibly falsify evolution. Such an experiment was proposed and detailed here:

It is important to understand that it is impossible to have genuine natural history without a scientific basis. Previous attempts to describe the past history of the universe without science are mythology. Mythology has no references whatsoever to physical and chemical laws and usually involve one or more supernatural deities, thus they are not scientific. Any tests of a historical hypothesis or theory involving deep time can never contradict the scientific laws previously established as valid via the scientific method.

So, is evolution a fact? Is the Big Bang theory a fact? Is the theory of continental drift a fact? Only if you accept as valid all the scientific laws that support them. And those laws, in turn, are supported by the scientific method. That is why the concept of “creation science” is a fraud. It is nothing more than an attempt to support mythology by the misuse of scientific terminology.

Since it is obvious that evolution is scientific, and creationism is not, why is there even a controversy over teaching such concepts as “Intelligent Design” in public schools? Because of politics and religion interfering with science education. And this is nonsense if you just follow the chain of reason that was used from the late 19th Century onwards to support evolution.

How NOT to argue or do “research”

Note comment #163, which I wrote in reference to some earlier commenters.

(((Interesting comments, these three.

Let’s face it, no one who is not a dissident is going to read links to an HIV dissident site, especially when some of the papers are by Duesberg. People may read papers from mainstream scientists so long as they support their own arguments. Everyone here is interested in furthering their own arguments. Period.
Posted by: wayne | March 19, 2007 7:46 PM

“Not only have I read Duesberg’s articles but I have checked his claims with the ‘orthodox’ literature. It is only after this that I concluded that duesberg is full of crap.”
And therefore everyone reading this blog should take Chris Noble’s word for it. Just like everyone takes nature’s and Science’s “word for it” when they also say Duesberg is full of crap. My guess is that (unlike Chris Noble) 99% of people who take [fill in the blank]’s “word for it” have not actually taken time to examine the “dissident literature” (or even the “orthodox literature” which dissidents allegedly “cherry-pick” and “abuse”). My guess is, 99% of people who dismiss dissidents out of hand do so simply because “everyone else thinks so…”
And then everyone wonders why it’s NOT impossible for such a blunder to have happened…
Posted by: Jake | March 24, 2007 6:51 AM 

 DT said: “I dismiss dissidents because I have taken the trouble to look in detail at their claims, and found them wanting”.
DT, as with most of what you have to say, that statement of yours is not true at all!
DT dismisses the HIV dissidents because DT is a HIV drug rep to doctors for a pharmaceutical company! Doooohhhh!
Posted by: lincoln | April 1, 2007 12:06 AM

 This is an example of what happens when someone gets so fixated on an idea that they can’t stand to lose an argument over it.
Here’s a tip for the denialist fanatics: Just because a concept is acceptable to YOUR mind doesn’t mean it is actually true. You may be suffering from psychotic delusions.)))

Natural selection and the scientific peer review process

Natural selection describes the process by which variations in a population of organisms are edited over time to enhance the ability of the individual organisms to survive and reproduce in an environment. Even if over 90% of all mutations, being random, are harmful to the next generation, natural selection can still eliminate those and keep those others that are beneficial, thus countering the destructive effects of mutations in general.

It is the same with the scientific peer review process. Because science has made so much progress over the past few centuries, most people have the impression that scientists are unusually brilliant, nearly infallible, and totally objective in their views and methods. But in fact, that is simply not the case for most of them, at least as individuals. Scientists can be just as mistaken, corrupt, dogmatic, and failing in their efforts and assumptions as the rest of humanity. A few of them can even be downright stupid!

If that is true, how can science be trusted to produce reliable facts and theories? Because the scientists use peer review as their means to test any new ideas put on the table by one of their number. No scientist’s word need be taken at face value. In order for his idea to be accepted as anything beyond a speculation, he must show observational or experimental data, clearly defined, that supports it. Thus, it should always be possible for other scientists to duplicate the results of the first scientist making the claim. If attempts to duplicate the observations or experiments do not produce the same result, the idea is rejected.

Sometimes the peer review process goes too far in its skepticism, and a valid idea, such as continental drift, is rejected and even ridiculed by scientists even though it explains all the data collected and is contradicted by none of it. But that’s why repeated testing of that idea is required, as long as it is not outright falsified. Continental drift WAS accepted in the 1960s once an overwhelming amount of evidence was found to support it and those geologists who had been bigoted against it in the 1920s had died or retired, and a new generation had arisen that was more open-minded. Those who supported the continental drift theory were able to come up with a mechanism, plate tectonics, that explained it, and once they did opposition to it faded away rapidly.

Individual scientists may fall so deeply in love with their own ideas that they refuse to accept the peer review process when it rejects their ideas. Then they become cranks who no longer do science, but instead put out propaganda to appeal to the scientifically illiterate. This is especially true of Creationists and global warming denialists who happen to have science degrees. They even go so far as to attack the peer review process itself! But it must be noted that they can never produce anything that would produce superior results in terms of seeking objective data in the universe and explaining it.

Scientists who refuse to recognize that an idea of theirs is wrong are like a population of organisms that are too specialized in their lifestyle to adapt to any sudden change in their environment, resulting in their extinction. Fortunately, the progress of science continues even in spite of such incidents, just as life on Earth has continued despite the mass extinctions that have wiped out most species that evolved on Earth before.

Lunacy from a racist “Christian”

As much as I despise Ben Stine for making that idiotic Expelled movie that attacks evolution as an inspiration for the Nazi Holocaust and portrays Intelligent Design promoters as martyrs, what’s even worse is when some deranged psycho slams Stine himself for attacking racism as well. I think I’ll just copy and paste the entire piece of nonsense to show what was done. I hope you have your bathroom door open, in case you feel like puking!

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An Evolutionary View of Religion

Considering that most of the opposition to evolution is based on religious bias, it is ironic that evolutionary concepts are most useful for explaining the history of religion. It is common knowledge, for example, that Christianity evolved from Judaism, Buddhism evolved from Hinduism, the Baha’i Faith evolved from Islam, and that Christianity has diversified into hundreds of sects including Roman Catholicism, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Thus religions themselves illustrate the concepts of common ancestry, mutation, and adaptive radiation as well as mass extinctions (many pagan religions died out as Christianity and Islam expanded, leaving behind “fossils” in the form of published records that are today dismissed as “myths”).

And now I wish to dispel one of the most common misconceptions about evolution: That because humans evolved from ape-like animals, that humans are by nature superior to their ape cousins. And that evolution is a ladder of progress in which all decendants are by nature superior to their ancestors. It is ludicrious to suggest that fish are inferior to mammals. Both fish and mammals are animals well adapted to their environments. If they were not, they’d become extinct. Most fish cannot breath air and thus cannot survive out of water, but the reverse is true of most mammals, which would die if they could not breath air. So from a fish’s point of view, a mammal must seem inferior, even the whales, which must also rely on their lungs to breath, not gills. Evolution is all about change, not progress. A fish is merely different from a mammal, period.

Likewise, Judaism is different from Christianity. There is no reason for Christians to think themselves or their faith superior to the Jewish faith, except by their own arrogance. Judaism has been in existence longer than Christianity, but it has also evolved just as Christianity has. For a Christian to convert to Judaism is not to take a “backward step”, merely to adopt a different set of teachings.

Thus, I totally reject the Baha’i concept of “Progressive Revelation” that implies that the Baha’i Faith is the supreme religion because it came after all the others, and that other religions are valid but destined to be replaced by the Baha’i Faith. Must we assume that because mammals came later than fish, they are destined to replace all fish? NO, that is nonsense! In my view all religions must be seen as equal because all of them have evolved and adapted to their environment. Until this is understood by nearly everyone, wars and discrimination based on religious bigotry will remain a serious threat.

A critical test of common descent (evolution)

While there are ways to experimentally test the process of evolution, known as natural selection, by mimicking it artificially, ways to test the historical issue of evolution, known as common descent, must rely on making observations and making predictions of the outcome of those observations.Inside the cells of all Eukaryota (plants, animals, fungi, and protists) are organelles called mitochondria. Likewise, inside the cells of plants are organelles called chloroplasts. Both mitochondria and chloroplasts have their own DNA and are thought to be descended from bacteria that took up residence inside the larger cells. In any case, the DNA in those organelles are completely different from the DNA in the nuclei of those same cells.

We can take the DNA of cell nuclei and check them to see if the differences between those of various organisms can enable us for build a family tree of those organisms. The more similar their nuclear DNA is, the more closely related they are. But since mitochondria and chloroplasts also have DNA, we could also take them and check to see if we could build up a family tree that is the same as the one we would build up with the nuclear DNA.

Indeed, there is no reason, if all life was produced by a single recent act of creation, for the DNA of the mitochondria of all animals to be significantly different from each other. So if I was a Creationist, especially of the young Earth kind, I would predict that it would be impossible to make a family tree from mitochondria DNA, or if I did, it would be completely different from the nuclear DNA. But if I was testing the theory of common decent, I would predict that the readings in animals of both their nuclear and mitochondrial DNA would produce the SAME FAMILY TREE in all cases! This would make perfect sense if the mitochondria and the rest of the cells have been evolving together ever since they first came together over a billion years ago.

Mitochondrial DNA is already used in forensics to determine who the mother of a child is, while nuclear DNA must be used to determine the father of that same child. This would only be an extension of that function, since the parents of the child must be of the same species, or at least very closely related, to even produce offspring at all.

A Real Skeptic vs. a Denialist

A skeptic is defined as someone who reserves judgement on an issue until enough evidence is found to support a claim beyond a reasonable doubt and also clearly defines what would make him disbelieve a claim. This is scientific thinking.

By contrast, a denialist has no such defined limits, either of belief or disbelief. The denialist starts from a position of dogma, asserting opposition to an idea by presenting a contrary idea as absolute truth and interpreting all evidence according to that unalterable dogma, rather than draw conclusions based only on the evidence. This is the opposite of scientific thinking, although denialists often use scientific terminology to make their positions seem legitimate to fool the ignorant.

Denialism vs geuine skepticism is found in debates over evolution vs. Creationism, global warming, religion, and politics. If there were no denialists, most of those debates would have either ended long ago, or would be a lot more cordial than they tend to be.

Why the term “species” should be abolished

The term “species” has a clear definition in biology: a group of organisms that breed only among themselves and do not breed with members of any other group. Thus, as far as we can tell, humans are all members of the same species, Homo sapiens. 

The lesser black backed gull and the herring gull of Britain, however, act like separate species, yet are connected to each other by a ring of subspecies that extend all around the Northern Hemisphere and can interbreed with their neighbors. So in the sense I stated above, the definition of species breaks down.

The issue of species also fails when asexual life forms are considered, including bacteria, most protists, a few populations of beetles, a population of lizards, and an entire class of rotifers called Bdelloidea. The lizards, beetles and rotifers in question are all females, while among the single celled organisms the issue of gender identity is meaningless.

Suppose we have a population of 400 asexually reproducing lizards which are genetically and physically almost identical. One at a glance would assume they are members of the same species. But because the lizards do not swap genes via sexual reproduction, they would just as well be considered 400 separate species.

The issue of “species” becomes meaningless when one considers extinct organisms that are dug up as fossils. Fossils cannot breed among themselves and so the designation of certain fossils as Homo hablis, Homo egaster, and Homo sapiens is entirely arbitrary, based on the structure of the fossils and nothing more. The same is true of all other organisms in the fossil record, including dinosaurs.

I would therefore argue that the term “species” is really useless and should be abolished completely, because it is a source of unnecessary confusion.

A useless debate

The crazy thing about debating with Creationist hypocrites is that they have ZERO facts that actually support their case, but plenty of rhetorical tricks. I was reminded of that by a “Sirius Knott” who plastered some lame comments on one of my blogs. Here’s the confrontation between him (SK) and me (DH), for those who care to follow it:

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Amphibians as a Support for Evolution

I am always amused by Creationists’ denials that transitional forms exist among either fossil organisms or living species. After all, the definition of “transitional” depends on the existence and forms of two other organisms that the transitional form is being compared to. Thus Archeopteryx is called transitional because it has characteristics of both birds and theropod dinosaurs, which are reptiles. But if neither birds nor reptiles existed, then Archaeopteryx would not be transitional to anything.

It is the same with amphibians. Their very existence as a class is evidence of evolution, for they are clearly transitional between fishes (which are almost entirely confined to water, breath through gills, have fins instead of legs, and lay jelly-like eggs), and reptiles (which often have legs, can thrive even in dry deserts because they breath through lungs, and lay hard or leathery shelled eggs on land). Most amphibians as adults can live on land by walking on legs and breath air through lungs, but they lay eggs like those of fish and have a larval stage that lives in water and breaths through gills. So one could argue that a salamander is a modified fish or that a lizard is a modified salamander, thus regarding the salamander as a transitional form having characteristics of both.

One might also think a Creator of all living things from scratch would not bother to make animals with such lifestyles as amphibians. What would be the point, except to trick us into accepting evolution?

The forms of living amphibians also give us some insights into how evolution works:

  1. The Urodeles include the news and salamanders which have short and weak limbs, long bodies and tails, and a larval form that resembles the adult.
  2. Anuarans (frogs and toads) have very short bodies, powerful limbs, and no tails as adults, but have a very different larval form with a strong tail for swimming and no limbs. They are the most common amphibians.
  3. Gymnophiores, also known as caecilians, have no limbs at all and have extremely long bodies but little or no tail and live almost entirely underground. Indeed, they resemble giant earthworms.

It is easy to see how both frogs and caecilians could have evolved from salamanders by going in completely different directions. One might also suspect that salamanders are a transitional form between frogs and caecilians, but in fact the salamanders are the primitive forms most closely resembling the fish and lizards mentioned earlier, while the other amphibian forms resemble neither fish nor lizards, but are more specialized in their lifestyles.

Most fossil amphibians from the Devonian period to the Permian period have the form of salamanders, thus providing support for the hypothesis that salamanders are indeed the primitive form. In the mass extinction at the end of the Permian period, the giant amphibians that had been so common on the land disappeared. Later, one line of smaller amphibians developed into frogs in the Triassic period. Today, with so much competition from reptiles, birds and mammals, the smaller amphibians, numbering only 4,000 species, are a remnant of what the class once was.