Origins Discussions – What Would be the First Question You’d Ask?

Given that you are a ______________________ (your particular informative specialty, background &/or theological/worldview approach to the topic), what would be the first question(s) you’d like to ask to start a discussion on the topic of the origins of life and the origins of human beings if you could ask:

1) A person who is confused about why people use their precious free time to join websites & forums (such as this one), chat sites, groups, on-line meetings rooms, and listserves, who attend conferences, workshops, presentations and talks delivered about origins & processes of natural & human history, including monumental & meaningful topics involving science, philosophy & theology/worldview discourse.

2) An atheist or agnostic who thinks evolutionary biology, the ‘Evolutionary Epic’ (as in E.O. Wilson, D.S. Wilson, Connie Barlow, et al.) &/or evolutionism as an ideology that buttresses their personal worldview, makes it very difficult if not impossible to believe in the Creator-God attested to in Abrahamic monotheistic scriptures and institutions.

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Peaceful Science has eclipsed Uncommon Descent. How will that impact TSZ’s reason to be?

The original mission of TSZ, as intended by the U.K.’s Dr. Elizabeth Liddle, who promoted the site to apostate peers & ‘skeptics,’ often at anti-religious online forums, lists & discussion boards, has passed its due date. She & they (many of the early people who joined) shared the experience in common of being ‘expelled’ (banned) from the IDist blog Uncommon Descent (UD) & to have their own sandbox to critique UD was the main mission of TSZ. There was no ‘inspirational’ core that Liddle offered upon departure from her own site, but returning to it in November to talk mainly about UD again could only be a fool’s errand.

My argument here is that UD is by now pretty much outdated. UD is generally seen as oddball &/or gutter-level IDist discussion, far adrift from serious conversation on the topic. It is shrinking in relevance now year on year. It thus isn’t really worth ‘reporting’ on or ‘opposing’ UD at TSZ anymore, though that IDist site was the early focus of TSZ & what brought many (most) of the early participants together. Is UD really worth time for ‘skeptics’ nowadays?

More importantly, the new blog Peaceful Science (PS) has recently surpassed BioLogos in terms of daily & hourly regular traffic & far outreaches the topics that UD used to breach. It has actual scientists, elderly or retired ‘science & religion/worldview’ people who contribute often a LOT, woolly protestants & ‘unitarian’ (or maybe just one who posts as much as 5 people), pedantic ‘natural theologians’, & S. Joshua Swamidass actually just called one person a ‘prophet’ as a welcome greeting. PS even ‘welcomes’ atheists (Swamidass has made it a point to defend Freedom From Religion Foundation proponent who is a self-described ‘militant atheist’ against multiple Christians) & agnostics & patiently fields all legitimate ‘scientific’ questions. Are you skeptical of ‘Peaceful Science’ and a ‘Science of Adam’ as proclaimed by quasi-creationists, ideology-starved geneticists & fence-sitting ‘reformers’?

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Commemorating May 1

Not even in his worst nightmares could Franz Kafka “imagine” such dystopia – he could only bear tearful witness in slack-jawed dumbfoundment!

Check out this link:

https://www.dailywire.com/news/30050/nyt-celebrates-marxs-birthday-op-ed-happy-birthday-ben-shapiro

Carpe diem I shall seize the opportunity to address any and all “USEFUL IDIOTS”, especially those who are even unaware that they are “USEFUL IDIOTS” aka “Cultural Marxists”.

First of all, let us be clear here: Cultural Marxism is NOT just some misappropriated simpleton “snarl word”, to smear the presumed compassionate and well-intentioned high ideals of the Left, dontchya know. (my gorge rises)

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The NASA Space Travel Conspiracy

It turns out that NASA’s just another collection of people who believe in the spherical earth because of tradition and education. The Flat Earth Society explains:

he earth is portrayed as round in NASA media because NASA thinks it’s round. They are not running a real space program, so they wouldn’t know what shape the earth truly takes.

That was the purpose of NASA’s creation from the very start: To put ICBMs and other weapons into space (or at least appear to). I suppose that “explains” why launches apparently do occur, while not doing anything like going to the moon.

I thought it was interesting because it seems to fit the trend in conspiracy thought at the present, that the Oppressive Establishment just believes its own claims, and that’s why the brave revolutionaries don’t succeed. That’s typical with ID, ancient aliens “theories,” mythicists, and the various health conspiracy theories, anti-vax and the like. A recent exception seemed to have been the Truther claims, which certainly posited a witting conspiracy, but it seems that projection works just fine for most conspiracy theories.

Anyway, it seemed somewhat interesting, since I’m getting bored with the denialsim of ID/creationism. The flat earthers seem to have the new converts and naive empiricists that ID and creationism largely lacks, so I’m finding them to be kind of interesting. Either way, though, it’s more of a question of why they believe, not what they argue, so the commonalities are interesting. And one commonality running through crank “science” is, of course, the conspiracy theory, which projects all of their own bad faith onto the enemy.

Kondrashov’s Paper, Synergistic Epistasis, Soft Selection

Regarding Kondrashov’s paper Why have we not died 100 times over?, an internet “pupil” of mine who goes by the handle of “nomenmeum” asked what is synergistic epistasis and soft selection. The definition of synergistic epistasis seems to be the major issue as I don’t see the term much in literature. I don’t know exactly what it means. Does synergistic epistasis entail a change in S-coefficients?

For example in Brenda Andrews’ double and triple knockout experiments with yeast, the corresponding single knockout experiments had little-to-no noticeable effects, but several double and triple knockouts would clearly have deleterious effect when their component individual single knockouts did not in isolation.

Below is Brenda Andrews’ description of her experiment which I mentioned at Sandwalk in connection with the ENCODE 2015 planning meeting (Larry Moran knew Dr. Andrews as a graduate student at his school):
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Do Atheists Exist?

This post is to move a discussion from Sandbox(4) at Entropy’s request.

Over on the Sandbox(4) thread, fifthmonarchyman made two statements that I disagree with:

“I’ve argued repeatedly that humans are hardwired to believe in God.”

“Everyone knows that God exists….”

As my handle indicates, I prefer to lurk.  The novelty of being told that I don’t exist overcame my good sense, so I joined the conversation.

For the record, I am what is called a weak atheist or negative atheist.  The Wikipedia page describes my position reasonably well:

Negative atheism, also called weak atheism and soft atheism, is any type of atheism where a person does not believe in the existence of any deities but does not explicitly assert that there are none. Positive atheism, also called strong atheism and hard atheism, is the form of atheism that additionally asserts that no deities exist.”

I do exist, so fifthmonarchyman’s claims are disproved.  For some reason he doesn’t agree, hence this thread.

Added In Edit by Alan Fox 16.48 CET 11th January, 2018

This thread is designated as an extension of Noyau. This means only basic rules apply. The “good faith” rule, the “accusations of dishonesty” rule do not apply in this thread.

Invited responses to my nylonase research and the question of “New Proteins Without God’s Help”

Susumo Ohno (who coined the term “junkDNA”) published a paper in 1984 through the National Academy of Sciences that was used by the NCSE, Ken Miller and Dennis Venema to claim “proteins can evolve without God’s help”. At the request of John Sanford, a courtesy associate research professor at Cornell, I was recruited to write a paper to refute Ohno’s evolutionary hypothesis on nylonases. I wrote it under John’s guidance based on his intuitions about genetics, his life-long specialty of 40 years and for which he became famous as attested by the fact he is one of the few geneticists who had their work featured in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

The actual paper is now in review, but it is not intended to be published in any journal, but will be released in a variety of channels shortly. It is hoped the material can be used by others to actually create papers that enter peer review. The motivation for releasing the paper in this way is to counter Venema’s book while it is still hot off the press.
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Where is the scientific evidence that arguments change minds?

There is considerable scientific evidence that arguing with people about their beliefs usually has an effect opposite of what you would hope (assuming, generously, that you care more about the effect your arguing has on others than the effect it has on you). I’m sure that most of you have seen reviews of the relevant literature. In any case, I have not the least interest in arguing about the evidence that arguing hardens, rather than changes, beliefs. Why? I insist that, as obviously negative as arguments are, the burden is on the arguer to provide strong evidence that arguing is, on balance, more beneficial than harmful.

It would be entertaining to observe the arguing of the most compulsive of arguers that they actually do not argue. But let’s make that a wee bit harder for them to do, and require that, whatever they regard their not-arguing to be, they present scientific evidence that it generally benefits the people with whom they not-argue. And, no, I have not overlooked the fantasy that the benefit is to the silent Onlookers, and that you are their Champion. Either provide us with evidence that there exists such an effect, or entertain us with your Kairosfocus imitation.

The Arrival of the Fittest: a book review

Andreas Wagner’s book,The Arrival of the Fittest has been mentioned many times (just try a site search as I’ve just done) since it was published. Petrushka pointed it out in a comment

For anyone interested in whether RMNS can create stuff, I recommend a relatively new book, Arrival of the Fittest. I just bought the Kindle version an haven’t finished, but it has a lot to say about how goldilocks mutations occur.

Much later Mung writes:

Reminds me of petrushka, who is always plugging Andreas Wagner’s Arrival of the Fittest, but will never post an OP on it for discussion.

So I’ve taken the hint and bought the book at last. I can see why people have recommended it. Continue reading

Jerry Falwell Jr, a Trump appointee.

I’m sure the name Jerry Falwell Jr means more to US members than it does to me. A friend passed on a link where I read:

Donald Trump appoints creationist college president to lead higher education reform taskforce

According to Salon:

The focus will be on “overregulation and micromanagement of higher education,” according to university spokesman Len Stevens. This would be consistent with Falwell’s past positions, in which he has opposed federal regulations on funding and accreditation for American schools of higher learning.

Following the appointment of (Calvinist?) Betsy DeVos as Education secretary, should we be concerned for the future of public education in the US?

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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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…
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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

Knowledge As Articulated Insight

The standard definition of knowledge, canonized in epistemology textbooks, is that knowledge is “justified true belief.”

I think that this is badly wrong, and to put it right, we should return to where this idea comes from: Plato’s argument (“argument”) in Meno. I suggest, based in part on Plato, that we should reject the JTB definition of knowledge in favor of knowledge as articulated insight.

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Evolution’s Puzzle & Trans-Evolutionary Change

In lead-up to the recent Royal Society’s “New Trends in Evolutionary Biology: Biological, Philosophical and Social Sciences Perspectives” meeting in London, which courted the terms ‘extension,’ ‘replacement’ and ‘amendment’ in regard to the (neo-)Darwinian evolutionary ‘Modern Synthesis’ in biology, as presented by active and leading members of the (mainly Anglo-American) biological scientific community as well as philosophers (and a couple of largely physical rather than cultural anthropologists), including several members of The Third Way of Evolution, this was one of a few trans-evolutionary change preparations aimed at liberating the social sciences and humanities from positivist, reductionist, evolutionist, atomist & naturalist (PREAN) ideologies (none of which, of course, refers to a single soul at TSZ because almost everyone here is – by definition of being a ‘skeptic’ – skeptical about even their own admittedly personal ideologies that are often so easily identifiable by their words made in public?), which display hegemonic tendencies by capital-capture political positioning scholars & dehumanising ‘public understanding’ gurus coming from oftentimes highly specialised natural-physical sciences fields that have become an unfortunate burden in collaborative science, philosophy and theology/worldview discourse, to everyone.

Cheers to moving beyond (neo-)Darwinian evolutionism with trans-evolutionary li-ber-a-tion!

Some evidence ALUs and SINES aren’t junk and garbologists are wrong

Larry Moran, Dan Graur and other garbologists (promoters of the junkDNA perspective), have argued SINES and ALU elements are non-functional junk. That claim may have been a quasi-defensible position a decade ago, but real science marches forward. Dan Graur can only whine and complain about the hundreds of millions of dollars spent at the NIH and elsewhere that now strengthens his unwitting claim in 2013, “If ENCODE is right, Evolution is wrong.”

Larry said in Junk in Your Genome: SINES
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“Species”

On the thread entitled “Species Kinds”, commenter phoodoo asks:

What’s the definition of a species?

A simple question but hard to answer. Talking of populations of interbreeding individuals immediately creates problems when looking at asexual organisms, especially the prokaryotes: bacteria and archaea. How to delineate a species temporally is also problematic. Allan Miller links to an excellent basic resource on defining a species and the Wikipedia entry does not shy away from the difficulties.

In case phoodoo thought his question was being ignored, I thought I’d open this thread to allow discussion without derailing the thread on “kinds”.

Thorp, Shannon: Inspiration for Alternative Perspectives on the ID vs. Naturalism Debate

The writings and life work of Ed Thorp, professor at MIT, influenced many of my notions of ID (though Thorp and Shannon are not ID proponents). I happened upon a forgotten mathematical paper by Ed Thorp in 1961 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that launched his stellar career into Wall Street. If the TSZ regulars are tired of talking and arguing ID, then I offer a link to Thorp’s landmark paper. That 1961 PNAS article consists of a mere three pages. It is terse, and almost shocking in its economy of words and straightforward English. The paper can be downloaded from:

A Favorable Strategy for Twenty One, Proceedings National Academy of Sciences.

Thorp was a colleague of Claude Shannon (founder of information theory, and inventor of the notion of “bit”) at MIT. Thorp managed to publish his theory about blackjack through the sponsorship of Shannon. He was able to scientifically prove his theories in the casinos and Wall Street and went on to make hundreds of millions of dollars through his scientific approach to estimating and profiting from expected value. Thorp was the central figure in the real life stories featured in the book
Fortune’s Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System that Beat the Casino’s and Wall Street by William Poundstone.
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Non-DNA Structural Inheritance

If the DNA codes primarily for proteins and helps regulate protein quantities, then where is the developmental or structural information? I’ve never gotten a straight answer from most evolutionists I’ve encountered, for that matter anyone on planet Earth. Maybe no one really knows. I think Creationist biologist Arthur Jones is right about Non-DNA inheritance.
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