Trilobites: the dangers of too little reading

Over at Evolution News and Views, an article by Dr. Cornelius Hunter titled, Irony Alert: Michael Shermer on “When Facts Fail”, accuses evolutionists (and especially Shermer) of intransigence in the face of awkward facts which spoil their case. Shermer recently authored an article in Scientific American, in which he noted that “people seem to double down on their beliefs in the teeth of overwhelming evidence against them” because revising these beliefs threatens their worldview. Dr. Shermer proposed that the best way to persuade people to revise their erroneous beliefs is to convince them that dropping these beliefs will not require them to change their worldview. When people are reassured that their fundamental worldview is not at stake, they can them examine the evidence dispassionately. Dr. Hunter was not impressed: he maintains that evolutionists are leading offenders, when it comes to refusing to revise their beliefs.

Dr. Hunter points to trilobites as his star example of “facts that fail” to square with the alleged “evidence for evolution.” However, a recurring failing of Dr. Hunter’s criticisms is that they reveal a lack of familiarity with the scientific literature – especially the most recent writings on the issues he raises.

Continue reading

Larry Moran’s Exit Exam

Attached is Larry Moran’s exit exam for biochemistry and molecular biology. Exit Exam for Biochemistry.

I probably will not get a lot of these right on the first try, but it is a good learning experience. When I don’t know the answer, I can look it up, so this is a good chance to review important concepts.

I will provide answers I think Professor Moran wants students to give, and then I’ll provide my own answers which I think he might dock points for if he were grading. I always try to give the answer the professor is expecting even if I disagree. It shows that I am trying to understanding of what he was trying to teach. It’s not a confession of belief on my part.

For example:

21.How much of your genome is functional?

Answer I think Larry is expecting:

10%, because of the limits mutational load imposes on a genome the size of a human’s and their reproductive excess. But even the 10% number is likely high since the Muller Limit of 1 mutation/person/generation might allow even less than 10% function for the human genome.

Continue reading

Why Is Science Unreasonably Effective?

Do any of the skeptics of skepticism think there is an alternative to science in medicine or engineering?

When confronted with unexplained mysteries, is incredulity a better stance than parsimony?

Is the invisible hand that constructs complex systems Adam Smith’s, or the hand of a deity?

Is nature regular or subject to caprice?


In the 1970s, when scientists compared the sequences of DNA in genes with the sequences of RNA encoded by those genes, they made a puzzling discovery: the DNA of most genes in animals, plants, and other eukaryotes contains too much information. The extra segments of largely useless information were named introns, and they must be cut out of RNA before the protein is made. Exons are the portions of the gene that remain in the RNA after the introns have been removed.

  • Relics of Eden

Continue reading

Cool it

In popular parlance, “child abuser” is just about the worst thing you can call anyone. So you can imagine my shock when I read the latest comments on one of my own recent threads and found one commenter accusing another of child abuse – a charge he repeated in the Moderation thread. My astonishment grew when I read of a proposal in Moderation to ban child abusers from The Skeptical Zone, on the grounds that people who post porn are already banned, and child abuse is much, much worse.

And what was the alleged offense? Here it is: “admitting to using strawman arguments, fallacious reasoning, and false claims to destroy childrens’ ability to think rationally about certain scientific topics. That’s child abuse.” Except that the person accused made no such admission. Regardless of whether the arguments were fallacious or not, no deceit was involved. It was the accuser who attacked the arguments as fallacious and illogical, not the person he accused.

And what were the arguments about? In a nutshell, abiogenesis. The arguments were presented to a group of six-year-old children and their parents, in an attempt to make them see that the origin of life from non-living matter is astronomically improbable, that macroevolution (e.g. fish to bird) is also vanishingly improbable, and that Intelligent Design is the only rational inference. A detailed description of the presentation can be found here.

I’d like to make a couple of very brief points. First, the term “child abuse” can be defined in three ways. First, could be defined very broadly to mean behavior which actually causes severe and/or life-long physical or psychological damage to children. Second, it could be defined more narrowly to mean behavior which is intended to cause severe and/or life-long physical or psychological damage to children. Third, it could be defined as behavior which the vast majority of responsible people, at the present time, would agree causes severe and/or life-long physical or psychological damage to children.

The first definition is clearly ridiculous, as it would make all of our parents or grandparents child abusers. Think of passive smoking. Or think of spanking: fifty years ago, it was quite common for naughty children to get their little bottoms hit with a belt and sent to bed without supper. The second definition is also unsatisfactory, as it would exonerate parents who refused to take their dying child to a doctor, but took her to a quack faith healer instead: here, the parents didn’t mean to harm their child, but any sensible person would say that they should have known better. That leaves us with the third definition.

Continue reading

Junk DNA munged

Salvador seems to have successfully hijacked the early embryonic mutations thread and turned it into a discussion of junk DNA. So I thought I’d share my thoughts on the subject of junk DNA. Why care?

Various strains of creationism hold that the earth and life started out perfect, then came the fall, and it all went downhill from there. Both young earth and old earth forms can easily accommodate the presence of junk in DNA. So the presence of junk DNA does not mitigate against the creationist position. But what of it’s absence?

Continue reading

Early embryonic mutations: a problem for evolution?

Dr. Stephen Meyer and Dr. Douglas Axe were recently interviewed by author and radio host Frank Turek on the significance of November’s Royal Society Meeting on evolution, in London. The two Intelligent Design advocates discussed what they see as the top five problems for evolutionary theory:

(i) gaps in the fossil record (in particular, the Cambrian explosion);
(ii) the lack of a naturalistic explanation for the origin of biological information;
(iii) the necessity of early mutations during embryonic development (which are invariably either defective or lethal) in order to generate new animal body types;
(iv) the existence of non-DNA epigenetic information controlling development (which means that you can’t evolve new animal body plans simply by mutating DNA); and
(v) the universal design intuition that we all share: functional coherence makes accidental invention fantastically improbable and hence physically impossible.

In today’s post, I’d like to focus on the third argument, which I consider to be the best of the bunch. The others are far less compelling.

Continue reading

Possibly a better conclusion for the sexual selection phenomena.

Creationists have no problem with sexual selection concepts while rejecting natural selection for the origin of biological life.

Sexual selection in fact would confirm YEC ideas on a fallen world desperately striving against decay in order to allow rime for God’s redemptive plan. Biology grasping at a marginal advantage to beat a dying/decay attrition. A arms race in survival.

Secxual selection claims are fine but once again are they accurate? Are they really done well by those who don’t do well in figuring out origins and living equations in biology? i think not!

i watch youtube videos , well done, on sundry creatures. Recently i saw ones on the Tasmanian devil and the hyaena. Surprising information but suggesting quickly clues.

Instead of a sexual selection going on in the episodes of creatures in mating I discovered instead the creatures always are striving/selecting to maintain the group/herd/nation in its strengh. So when selecting for mates its just a minor extra episode of what they do all the time. they just in sexual union continue to maintain the reasons for why their is strong.

Therefore its not a strange , instinct, desire to improve/maintain genes. its not that sophisticated. they just continue to aggressively desire strength in the whole group. they just do it in mating also. So its not a special thing but a continuum in a spectrum of maintaing the groups strength.

So I might say sexual selection doesn’t exist but only is a special case in a spectrum of staying strong.

This makes more sense, to me, then a segregated , special, drive for special mating designs.


Miracle of Evolution – The Appendix

In a recent thread here at TSZ the question was raised as to whether naturalism is comfortable with highly typical events. My answer to that question was quite so. Exhibit: the appendix.

Although it is widely viewed as a vestigial organ with little known function, recent research suggests that the appendix may serve an important purpose. In particular, it may serve as a reservoir for beneficial gut bacteria. Several other mammal species also have an appendix, and studying how it evolved and functions in these species may shed light on this mysterious organ in humans.

But wait. There’s more…

Continue reading

Two hundred years of global warming and the failure of the Precautionary Principle

I’d invite readers to have a look at this two-minute video, titled, “Humans have caused climate change for 180 years”:

Here’s an excerpt from an article in the ANU Reporter, dated 25 August 2016 (emphases mine):

An international research project has found human activity has been causing global warming for almost two centuries, proving human-induced climate change is not just a 20th century phenomenon.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Nerilie Abram from The Australian National University (ANU) said the study found warming began during the early stages of the Industrial Revolution and is first detectable in the Arctic and tropical oceans around the 1830s, much earlier than scientists had expected.

“It was an extraordinary finding,” said Associate Professor Abram, from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences and ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science.

“It was one of those moments where science really surprised us. But the results were clear. The climate warming we are witnessing today started about 180 years ago.

Continue reading

The Glories of Global Warming and the Faint Young Sun Paradox

It is a little known fact that scientists who argue that the paleontological record of life is hundreds of millions of years old, when confronted with astrophysical facts, must eventually rely heavily on the hypothesis of finely tuned, large scale global warming. The problem is known as the Faith Young Sun Paradox. A few claim they have solved the paradox, but many remain skeptical of the solutions. But one fact remains, it is an acknowledged scientific paradox. And beyond this paradox, the question of Solar System evolution on the whole has some theological implications.

Astrophysicists concluded that when the sun was young, it was not as bright as it is now. As the sun ages it creates more and more heat, eventually incinerating the Earth before the sun eventually burns out. This is due to the change in products and reactants in the nuclear fusion process that powers the sun. This nuclear evolution of the sun will drive the evolution of the solar system, unless Jesus returns…
Continue reading

“Uncommon Descent” and “The Skeptical Zone” in 2016

(For last year’s results, see “Uncommon Descent” and “The Skeptical Zone” in 2015)

Fig 1

In 2016, “The Skeptical Zone” (TSZ) overtook “Uncommon Descent” (UD) – at least with regard to the number of comments:

Number of Comments 2005 – 2016

year 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
UD 41,400 28,400 42,500 53,700 53,100 28,000
TSZ 2,200 15,100 16,900 20,400 45,200 54,200

Continue reading

Climate Change: myth or reality?

There’s no question in my mind the “Intelligent Design” movement has lost all its arguments with Science. Unfortunately, post Trump-it, that fact is now an irrelevance. With Trump’s appointment of Betsy de Vos as Education Secretary, it looks like religious fundamentalism no longer needs its figleaf. What concerns me much more is that a similar fate awaits climate research if his appointment of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State is any indication of future policy on combating climate change. Continue reading


There have been a number of interesting comments lately here at TSZ that referred to viruses.

Are viruses pre-biotic entities, and did they contribute to the origin of life?

Are viruses alive?

Do viruses evolve?

Are viruses an example of what evolution is capable of?

Did viruses contribute to the evolution of life?

Should be fodder for some discussion.

Hoist on its own petard: ENV’s two “fake science” stories turn out to be genuine

Two articles exposing “fake science” claims have recently been published over at Evolution News and Views. One article attacks the fossil evidence for whale evolution, while the other seeks to discredit the claim that human and chimp DNA are 99% identical. Both articles suffer from serious scientific flaws.

“Fake science” Story No. 1: Whale evolution – too little time for it to happen?

Continue reading

Common Design

One of the densest Creationist tropes has to be ‘Common Design’. It is proposed as a direct competitor to Common Descent – template mediated copying of DNA – as an explanation for the high sequence similarity of two DNA segments. But what is actually held in common? If we look at a particular transposon sequence, and find it is in A and B but not C, and another that is in A but not B, etc, we can generally organise a set of such markers into a ‘tree’ structure, much as would be predicted by Common Descent. But no, we are assured that these apparent markers are in fact part of the ‘design’. If A is a whale, B a pig and C a deer, there is something that is vital for the function of both whale and pig but is definitely not required in deer. Instead, a sequence which, in whale and pig, sits either side of the insertion, runs uninterrupted in the deer. That, too, is functional, supposedly, even though the insert would give a product which was the A/B one with a gap and possibly a frameshift, if it were transcribed.

But this is held to be the case even if the sequence, with and without transposon, is never transcribed. A sequence that does nothing, and organises hierarchically exactly as would be expected of common descent, is nonetheless functional … because?

Continue reading