Darwin’s House of Cards

In this provocative history of contemporary debates over evolution, veteran journalist Tom Bethell depicts Darwin’s theory as a nineteenth-century idea past its prime, propped up by logical fallacies, bogus claims, and empirical evidence that is all but disintegrating under an onslaught of new scientific discoveries. Bethell presents a concise yet wide-ranging tour of the flash points of modern evolutionary theory, investigating controversies over common descent, natural selection, the fossil record, biogeography, information theory, evolutionary psychology, artificial intelligence, and the growing intelligent design movement. Bethell’s account is enriched by his own personal encounters with of some our era’s leading scientists and thinkers, including Harvard biologists Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin; British paleontologist Colin Patterson; and renowned philosopher of science Karl Popper.

Darwin’s House of Cards: A Journalist’s Odyssey Through the Darwin Debates

Of course, no real skeptic will want to read this book.

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Introns

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

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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?

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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…

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Virolution

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.

Carl Woese – Evolution Skeptic

Carl Woese

b. July 15, 1928
d. December 30, 2012

“Thus, we regard as rather regrettable the conventional concatenation of Darwin’s name with evolution, because there are other modalities that must be entertained and which we regard as mandatory during the course of evolutionary time.”

“I have concerns about scientists thinking that they’re God when it comes to biology.”

“A future biology cannot be built within the conceptual superstructures of the past. The old superstructure has to be replaced by a new one before the holistic problems of biology can emerge as biology’s new mainstream.”

“I do not like people saying that atheism is based on science, because it’s not. It’s an alien invasion of science.”

  • Carl Woese

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Evolution Skeptics!

In a recent post here at TSZ, participant Alan Fox made some comments and asked some questions which might make for interesting discussion, but first I need to challenge some of his assumptions.

First, his claim that I find evolutionary theory unbelievable.

Second, his claim that I find a naturalistic explanation for the origin of life theory unbelievable.

Third, his his claim that I mock attempts at scientific hypotheses.

Fourth, I thought being skeptical is a good thing.

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A Christmas Story

It amazes me how often I hear that Jesus never existed or that scripture is just fiction.

So here are a few rather recently published books for the skeptic who claims to have never seen any evidence that scripture is not fiction or that Jesus ever existed.

Why Are There Differences in the Gospels

Biographies and Jesus

The Historical Reliability of the New Testament

Merry Christmas

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Dice Entropy – A Programming Challenge

Given the importance of information theory to some intelligent design arguments I thought it might be nice to have a toolkit of some basic functions related to the sorts of calculations associated with information theory, regardless of which side of the debate one is on.

What would those functions consist of?

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Cumulative Selection Explained!

The battle over cumulative selection and Dawkins’ Weasel program has raged on for some months [years?] here at TSZ and across numerous threads. So can it possibly be that we now, finally, have a definitive statement about cumulative selection?

Mung: And whether or not my program demonstrates the power of cumulative selection has not been settled…

To which keiths responded:

keiths: Anyone who understands cumulative selection can see that it doesn’t, because your fitness functions don’t reward proximity to the target — only an exact match. The fitness landscapes are flat except for a spike at the site of the target.

So there you have it. You need a target and a fitness function that rewards proximity to the target.

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A One Line GA

Please post your software implementation of a GA that can be expressed in a single line of executable code.

Here’s mine:

#

A minimalist GA – Inspired by Allan Miller at TSZ

#
pop = Array.new(10) {“I AM APE-ISCH”}.map! {|ape| ape.dup}

The original population is copied and eliminated.

Some Questions on Genetic Algorithms

vjtorley:

I was very struck by Glenn Williamson’s [vjt meant GlenDavidson] remark that creativity is not the same thing as complexity. Very deep. Glenn seems to think that people are good at the former, but the blind processes can outdo them in the latter. That’s an interesting view, but I’d want to see evidence that blind processes are actually capable of producing systems with a high degree of functional complexity, of the kind Axe described in his book. Even a computer simulation would be something.

What with all the experts in writing GA’s here at TSZ I was hoping VJT would have elicited more of a response.

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Evolution’s Search Problem

Tom English: (If Mung does not know that authors at Evolution News and Views often disagree with one another, but never point out their disagreements, then I’ve given him way too much credit. For instance, Dembski told us that “evolutionary search” really does search for targets. But Meyer and Axe have both gone out of their ways to explain that “evolutionary search” actually does not search.)

Did Tom ever reveal his sources?

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Consilience and the Cartesian Skeptic

It is not all that infrequent here at TSZ that some opponent of theism or ID makes a statement that makes me scratch my head and wonder how it is possible that they could make such a statement. This OP explores a recent example.

Cartesian scepticism, more impressed with Descartes’ argument for scepticism than his own reply, holds that we do not have any knowledge of any empirical proposition about anything beyond the contents of our own minds. The reason, roughly put, is that there is a legitimate doubt about all such propositions because there is no way to justifiably deny that our senses are being stimulated by some cause (an evil spirit, for example) which is radically different from the objects which we normally think affect our senses.

– A Companion to Epistemology, p. 457

Imagine my surprise when I found keiths (a self-identified “Cartesian Skeptic”) appealing to the senses.

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