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.