Well, should scientists be legally liable for deceiving the public and manipulating the evidence to support their OWN brliefs based on untrue claims and unsupported by scientific evidence?
Well, should scientists be legally liable for deceiving the public and manipulating the evidence to support their OWN brliefs based on untrue claims and unsupported by scientific evidence?
In a podcast on the show, ID the Future (March 14, 2017), Dr. Ann Gauger criticized a popular argument that purports to show how easy it is to get new proteins: namely, the evolution, over a relatively short 40-year period, of nylonase. (Nylonase is an enzyme that utilizes waste chemicals derived from the manufacture of nylon, a man-made substance that was not invented until 1935.) While Dr. Gauger made some factual observations that were mostly correct, her interpretation of these observations fails to support the claim made by Intelligent Design proponents, that the odds of getting a new functional protein fold are astronomically low, and that it’s actually very, very hard for new proteins to evolve. Let’s call this claim the “Hard-to-Get-a-Protein” hypothesis (HGP for short).
To help readers see what’s wrong with Dr. Gauger’s argument, I would like to begin by pointing out that for HGP to be true, two underlying claims also need to be correct:
1. Functional sequences are RARE.
2. New functions are ISOLATED in sequence space.
In her podcast, Dr. Gauger cites the work of Dr. Douglas Axe to support claim #1, when she declares that the odds of getting a new functional protein fold are on the order of 1 in 10^77 (an assertion debunked here). Dr. Gauger says little about claim #2; nevertheless, it is vital to her argument. For even if functional sequences are rare, they may be clustered together – in which case, getting from one functional protein to the next won’t be so hard, after all.
If claims #1 and #2 are both correct, then getting new functions should not be possible by step-wise changes. Remarkably, however, this is precisely what Dr. Gauger concedes, in her podcast, as we’ll see below.
Contradictions are rife in the Christian bible. Here at The Skeptical Zone we have recently discussed those surrounding how Saul died. We’ve also noted the two conflicting accounts of Judas’ death and what he did with the thirty pieces of silver. There are dozens more.
The Skeptics’ Annotated Bible and The Thinking Atheist are two of several excellent resources on biblical contradictions and absurdities. The sheer volume of contradictions, though, is best demonstrated visually as is done at BibViz:
The creators of this site started with a cross-index of topics in the bible and pulled out those that contradict each other. You can click on the links to get more detail. As a bonus, the site includes references to the sections in the bible that contain Scientific Absurdities & Historical Inaccuracies, Cruelty & Violence, Misogyny, Violence & Discrimination Against Women, and Discrimination Against Homosexuals.
Obviously most Christians aren’t foolish enough to claim their bible is inerrant. Those that do, in the words of Desi Arnaz, have “got some ‘splainin’ to do.”
Over at her blog, BackReAction, physicist Sabine Hossenfelder has written a cogently argued article titled, No, we probably don’t live in a computer simulation (March 15, 2017). I’ll quote the most relevant excerpts:
According to Nick Bostrom of the Future of Humanity Institute, it is likely that we live in a computer simulation…
Among physicists, the simulation hypothesis is not popular and that’s for a good reason – we know that it is difficult to find consistent explanations for our observations…
If you try to build the universe from classical bits, you won’t get quantum effects, so forget about this – it doesn’t work. This might be somebody’s universe, maybe, but not ours. You either have to overthrow quantum mechanics (good luck), or you have to use qubits. [Note added for clarity: You might be able to get quantum mechanics from a classical, nonlocal approach, but nobody knows how to get quantum field theory from that.]
Even from qubits, however, nobody’s been able to recover the presently accepted fundamental theories – general relativity and the standard model of particle physics…
Indeed, there are good reasons to believe it’s not possible. The idea that our universe is discretized clashes with observations because it runs into conflict with special relativity. The effects of violating the symmetries of special relativity aren’t necessarily small and have been looked for – and nothing’s been found.
I’m pretty sure that most knowledgeable people know that someone who claims to be an atheist is just making an overstatement about his/her own beliefs. As most knowledgeable people who claim to be atheist probably know that even the most recognizable faces of atheistic propaganda, such as Richard Dawkins, admitted publicly that they are less than 100% certain that God/gods don’t exist.
My question is: Why would anyone who calls himself an atheist make a statement like that?
Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald recently, Australian journalist Ruby Hamad explained her decision not to have any children. Ecological considerations proved to be a “very compelling factor” influencing her decision, leading her to conclude that for her and her partner, having a child would be “the more selfish decision.” Ms. Hamad details her reasons in a passage that makes for disturbing reading:
Our planet is in trouble. We all know this. The Amazon is depleting so rapidly, we have already lost 20 per cent of it and will lose another 20 in the next two decades – just as children born today are coming of age. Lucky them!
The Great Barrier Reef is as good as dead, as everyone who is not Pauline Hanson will admit, but deforestation is also happening in the oceans, thanks to the rise in global temperatures. Meanwhile, the oceans will be commercially extinct by the middle of the century, and the entire Arctic is living on borrowed time…
For lay people, the knowledge that one child born today will add 9,441 metric tons of carbon to the atmosphere is enough to turn them off procreation. “You can never take it back,” said one American woman. “That stopped me in my tracks.”
So, is Ruby Hamad right? In today’s post, I’d like to explain why I believe her logic is profoundly mistaken.
I’m pretty sure that many creationists/ID proponents and skeptics about materialism have heard that question many times often when materialists get cornered about their beliefs about the origins of life…The usual question posed by materialists is: How Did The Designer/God do it? We can’t recreate life, so tell us how was it created!
Does anyone have a theory about how ID/God/ET did it?
I have my own, but I’m just curious how much smarter people than me would answer the skeptics who often add to their skepticism: Did ID/God/ET just “poofed” life magically into existence?
the issue/question of why europe became the origin for the scientific revolution has been said by many, now and in the past, to be the unique result of christian thought and could not of happened elsewhere in the world and thats why it didn’t.
I see many Christians, of all types, who care about science and who want to resist attacks about Christian beliefs being opposed to science MAKING these claims.
They say conclusions about God and order and laws is from Christian faith and led to seeing this in nature etc etc.
I say this is not true. Christian thought/beliefs had nothing to do with the science revolution and Europe’s superiority.
In my final months at work, I had many conversations about retirement with friends and colleagues who asked about my plans and preparations and shared their own. I was struck by the wide range of attitudes they expressed. For some, retirement was a concrete reality, something they had visualized and thought about in detail. For others it was more abstract, as if it were going to happen to someone else entirely. You might expect this to correlate straightforwardly with age: the closer to retirement, the more concrete the thinking about it. That didn’t seem to be the case for many people.
This 2015 paper ought to provoke provoke an interesting discussion:
Although bullshit is common in everyday life and has attracted attention from philosophers, its reception (critical or ingenuous) has not, to our knowledge, been subject to empirical investigation. Here we focus on pseudo-profound bullshit, which consists of seemingly impressive assertions that are presented as true and meaningful but are actually vacuous. We presented participants with bullshit statements consisting of buzzwords randomly organized into statements with syntactic structure but no discernible meaning (e.g., “Wholeness quiets infinite phenomena”). Across multiple studies, the propensity to judge bullshit statements as profound was associated with a variety of conceptually relevant variables (e.g., intuitive cognitive style, supernatural belief). Parallel associations were less evident among profundity judgments for more conventionally profound (e.g., “A wet person does not fear the rain”) or mundane (e.g., “Newborn babies require constant attention”) statements. These results support the idea that some people are more receptive to this type of bullshit and that detecting it is not merely a matter of indiscriminate skepticism but rather a discernment of deceptive vagueness in otherwise impressive sounding claims. Our results also suggest that a bias toward accepting statements as true may be an important component of pseudo-profound bullshit receptivity.
It has been widely advertised that nylon eating genes evolved after 1940. I have no problem with that claim in principle since new antibiotic and malaria resistances have evolved since 1940. Even though I can easily accept the possibility of post-1940 nylon-eating evolution in principle, where is the slam dunk evidence that this is actually the case? Did a significant portion of the ability for bacteria to digest nylon take place after 1940 (or 1935 when nylon was first created)?
Hi everyone. I think we’re collectively at our best when we explore new things. As things seem we’re a little fractious right now let me offer up my idea for what might be a pleasant diversion.
It kind of has a genome and fitness criteria, right?
Let’s take just one 3×3 grid. It could have a genome of 9 digits, and competing fitness functions: (sum or product, max or min) for 3 rows, 3 columns, 2 diagonals and of course some rule about using all the digits (or not if we want better mutations). Each of the 9 genes would affect 2 or 3 (or 4 for gene number 5, in the middle of the square) of the fitness functions. Can we create a simulation, with drifting fitness functions and see how organisms evolve. Will this show islands of function and a path to traverse between them? This might be fun because a mutation can help in one regard whilst hurting in another. I’ll leave this here for now, let me know if anyone is interested…
David Madison is a minister-turned-atheist, who has a PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University. Madison was raised a liberal Protestant, but he gradually lost his faith while serving as the pastor of two Methodist parishes in Massachusetts. He went on to pursue a business career, but he’s recently written a book titled, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: A Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith (see here for one critic’s review and here for a more favorable review).
However, what put me off Madison’s book is what he’s written on his own Web page. His recommended reading list of 200 books, put together for people who want to “find out how Jesus, Christianity and theism have all been so convincingly slam dunked,” includes dozens of books by authors defending the kooky view that Jesus never even existed (a view not shared by any reputable historian – and no, Dr. Richard Carrier doesn’t count as one; nor does Dr. Robert Price, who got trounced when he debated Dr. Bart Ehrman last year on the historicity of Jesus, as Carrier himself admits), and only a handful of books addressing the traditional philosophical arguments for the existence of God, of which Raymond Bradley’s God’s Gravediggers: Why No Deity Exists (Ockham Publishing, 2016) and Michael Martin’s The Cambridge Companion to Atheism appear to be the most substantive. (There are other books attacking Intelligent Design on Madison’s list, but these are beside the point, as ID proponents don’t maintain that their arguments, taken by themselves, prove the existence of any Deity.) And believe it or not, H. L. Mencken, whose credibility on religious and moral issues I have demolished here, here, here and here, makes the list, too. Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion is on the list (has Madison ever read John Lennox’s response, I wonder?), as well as Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian, which has been refuted ably by David Snoke.
For the benefit of his readers, Madison has also kindly provided chapter summaries for his book, which (I am sorry to say) do not inspire confidence. A few excerpts:
I’ve never met an IDer or creationist who could explain this, and it should give pause to theistic evolutionists as well.
An article in Aeon:
A ferocious biological struggle between mother and baby belies any sentimental ideas we might have about pregnancy
Suzanne Sadedin is an evolutionary biologist who has worked at Monash University, University of Tennessee, Harvard University, and KU Leuven.
Here, one of my brilliant MD PhD students and I study one of the “information” arguments against evolution. What do you think of our study?
I recently put this preprint in biorxiv. To be clear, this study is not yet peer-reviewed, and I do not want anyone to miss this point. This is an “experiment” too. I’m curious to see if these types of studies are publishable. If they are, you might see more from me. Currently it is under review at a very good journal. So it might actually turn the corner and get out there. An a parallel question: do you think this type of work should be published?
I’m curious what the community thinks. I hope it is clear enough for non-experts to follow too. We went to great lengths to make the source code for the simulations available in an easy to read and annotated format. My hope is that a college level student could follow the details. And even if you can’t, you can weigh in on if the scientific community should publish this type of work.
“Functional Information”—estimated from the mutual information of protein sequence alignments—has been proposed as a reliable way of estimating the number of proteins with a specified function and the consequent difficulty of evolving a new function. The fantastic rarity of functional proteins computed by this approach emboldens some to argue that evolution is impossible. Random searches, it seems, would have no hope of finding new functions. Here, we use simulations to demonstrate that sequence alignments are a poor estimate of functional information. The mutual information of sequence alignments fantastically underestimates of the true number of functional proteins. In addition to functional constraints, mutual information is also strongly influenced by a family’s history, mutational bias, and selection. Regardless, even if functional information could be reliably calculated, it tells us nothing about the difficulty of evolving new functions, because it does not estimate the distance between a new function and existing functions. Moreover, the pervasive observation of multifunctional proteins suggests that functions are actually very close to one another and abundant. Multifunctional proteins would be impossible if the FI argument against evolution were true.
With the mainstream media mocking what they describe as President Trump’s delusional claim that former President Obama ordered Trump Tower’s phones to be tapped, I thought it would only be fair to invite readers to look at the other side. In a 12-minute video, Mark Levin, a lawyer who was a chief of staff for Attorney General Edwin Meese during the Reagan administration, has laid out what appears to be overwhelming evidence that backs up Trump’s wiretapping claims. Newt Gingrich offers his take here. Matthew Vadum’s article, Obama’s Wiretaps?, in FrontPage magazine, makes for very disturbing reading. Vadum doesn’t pull any punches:
Since objective morality is The Topic That Won’t Die here at TSZ, I think we need Yet Another Thread to Discuss It.
A Sam Harris quote to get things rolling (h/t walto):
There are two mistakes I see moral subjectivists making. The first mistake is believing in the fact-value dichotomy. The second mistake is conflating moral philosophy and psychology, suggesting that our psychology ought to be the sole determinant of our beliefs.
I’m really not a fan of doing what I’m about to do.
But anyways, this is WJM @ UD
To be fair, when the proponent of a theory who claims that theory to be scientific fact provides little or nothing in the way of falsifiable predictions and offers largely only sweeping narratives and historical inferences based on ideological assumptions and/or an imagined infinite pool of unqualified possibility, it’s impossible for the opposition to offer specified rebuttals.
Until proponents offer specified, falsifiable predictions, the proper response to such a theory is to “lump everything into a single bucket and dismiss the entire topic.”
Commenter Kantian Naturalist leveled the following charge against TSZ earlier today:
Folks here would rather persist in their confusion over basic issues than risk the realization that they don’t really understand what they assume they understand.
If you haven’t figured out that there’s a fundamentally anti-intellectual bias to TSZ and there’s really nothing you can do to change it, you’re going to have nothing but frustration in your interactions here.
That is an absurdly sweeping statement. Do some people here persist in their confusions, ignoring opposing arguments? Sure. Do some people express anti-intellectual opinions here? Sure, including KN himself on occasion, amusingly enough. Does this mean that TSZ suffers from “a fundamentally anti-intellectual bias” and that those seeking intelligent discussions are doomed to experience “nothing but frustration” here?
No. KN’s charge is ridiculous and way overblown.
I cannot tell you exactly what will be in the forthcoming book by Marks, Dembski, and Ewert. I made it clear in Evo-Info 1 and Evo-Info 2 that I was responding primarily to technical papers on which the book is based. With publication delayed once again, I worry that the authors will revise the manuscript to deflect my criticisms. Thus I’m going to focus for a while on the recent contributions to the “evolutionary informatics” strain of creationism by George D. Montañez, a former advisee of Marks who is presently a doctoral candidate in machine learning at Carnegie Mellon University (advisor: Cosma Shalizi). My advice for George is that if he wants not to taken for a duck, then he had better not walk like a duck and swim like a duck and quack like a duck. Continue reading