On variant genetic codes

Craig Venter has achieved celebrity status in Creationist circles for little more than a slightly embarrassed smile. In a discussion involving, among others, Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss and Paul Davies, Venter makes the eyebrow-raising statement that he does not regard Mycoplasma as the same ‘life-form’ as other prokaryotes, or eukaryotes. His reasoning was that they have ‘different genetic codes’. Dawkins reasonably points out that their codes are ‘all but identical’ (they differ in just one position, Trp for STOP). Creationist videos of the exchange tend to fade on the aforementioned smile given in response. The videos are presented, breathlessly, as “Venter denies Common Descent in front of Richard Dawkins!”. However … one difference? Is that really enough to justify a claim of separate origins? This would be like claiming that Norwegian and Swedish had separate origins on the strength of the difference between æ and ä or ø and ö. Continue reading

Bad Design = No Designer?

I have been thinking about the highlights of the year 2018 especially about which idea or claim really astonished me the most in its lack of logic, absurdity or it itself being an oxymoron… While there have been many candidates, Dr. Lents’ claim about the so-called human errors based on his book, where he claims Bad Design = No Designer and therefore evolution must be true, made the top of my list as the most outrageous claim of 2018…

Here is why:  Continue reading

How should TSZ handle racism and hate speech?

Elizabeth Liddle, who founded this Website, has recently declared that racist remarks on TSZ should be deleted. Moderator Alan Fox would like to additionally ban hate speech, incitement to violence, and discrimination, where these are proscribed by law. However, at the present time, nothing in the Rules of this Website prohibits racism or hate speech. And how does one define these terms, anyway? In this short post, I’d like to offer a few tentative proposals.

It seems to me that a rule that bans racism alone would be too arbitrary. Why ban racism but not sexism, ageism, ableism, homophobia or transphobia?

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There has been a lot of talk here lately about Christians and Jews. here is a short sketch of my views on Christianity and Christ.

IMO Christ did not come to found a religion, although it was inevitable that his followers would organise themselves into what would become the various factions and sects that is the Chrstian religion.

His descent, passion and resurrection was a turning point in the evolution of the Earth. It was a turning point in the transition from group consciousness to individual consciousness. His prescription was one that anyone can follow whether they are Jewish, Muslim, atheist, Christian, agnostic or whatever other human invented category they align themselves with.

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2018 Year Summary: Who was converted?

Most pro-ID or pro-evolution blogs have summaries of the year usually with the highlights of the most interesting points or OPs …Larry Moran also has one on the most popular post though of 2017…

If I were in charge of a blog like TSZ my summary of 2018 would ask for the details of the actual conversions: i.e. how effective TSZ has been in what it was set up for. It was apparently set up to attract converts from the support or belief of ID to support or believe that sheer dumb luck in the discussions of life origins…

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Cannibalistic tadpoles and matricidal worms dispute evolution

  1. A recent study identifies phenotypic plasticity as the ability of tadpoles to change how they look and act, and how their tissues function, in response to their environment. If the pond also contains fairy shrimp, some tadpoles turn into aggressive carnivores and sometimes, the carnivorous tadpole stage becomes entrenched – without the need for a dietary trigger. This plasticity has also been confirmed in lizards, roundworms, and yeast. When yeast is exposed to the herbicide paraquat, the yeast copes by eliminating some or all of the DNA in their mitochondria, the cells’energy-producing organelles.
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A modest proposal for detecting design

I’d like to thank everyone who participated in the recent Max’s demon thread, it might be helpful to revisit that OP for context before continuing on to what follows here. http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/maxs-demon-a-design-detection-riddle/

As promised and for what it’s worth I’d now like to submit my proposal for a method for detecting design in situations like Max’s demon where instead of looking at a single isolated artifact or event we are evaluating a happening that is extended spatiotemporally in some way. Continue reading

ID 3.0? The new Bradley Center at the DI – is Dembski returning from retirement?

Back in 2016, William Dembski officially ‘retired’ from ‘Intelligent Design’ theory & the IDM. He wrote that “the camaraderie I once experienced with colleagues and friends in the movement has largely dwindled.” https://billdembski.com/personal/official-retirement-from-intelligent-design/ This might have come rather late after Dembski’s star had already started to fade. Indeed, it was more than 10 years after the Dover trial debacle and already long after I personally heard another of the leaders of the IDM at the DI in 2003 say he no longer reads Dembski’s books. Yet no doubt Dr. Dembski was one of, if not the leading voice of the IDM for almost 2 decades. Here’s one UK IDist lamenting Dembski’s statement: https://designdisquisitions.wordpress.com/2017/02/19/william-dembski-moves-on-from-id-some-reflections/ Yet when a new paycheck from the Discovery Institute was offered in the Bradley Center, Dembski seems to have gotten right back on the ideological bandwagon in Seattle & reversed his dwindling of IDist camaraderie.

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“I want to know God’s thoughts”- Albert Einstein

Or “I want to know God’s thoughts, the rest are details.”
Recently a personal letter written apparently by Albert Einstein has been sold for close to 3 million dollars here. In it, Einstein supposedly claims that belief in God is a representation of human weakness… If that is true, why so many other statements by Einstein seem to support his belief in at least a god?

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A Disappearing Comment at Amazon

In February 2018, I wrote a comment at amazon for Dr. Robert J. Marks II’s, Dr. Dr. William A. Dembski’s, and Dr. Winston Ewert’s book Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics (1st Edition):

We are all waiting for the ultimate book on Intelligent Design, written by R. Marks and W. Dembski. Instead we get a “textbook”, another attempt to explain the concepts to laymen. I got the impression that the authors used this setting to avoid the necessary rigour: they just do not define terms like “search” which they use hundreds of times. This allows for a lot of hand-waving, like the following sentence on p. 174:

“We note, however, the choice of an algorithm along with its parameters and initialization imposes a probability distribution over the search space”

That unsubstantiated claim is essential for their following proofs on “The Search for a Search”!

And then there are details like this one:

p. 130: “For the Cracker Barrel puzzle [we got] an endogenous information of I = 7.15 bits”
p. 138: “We return now to the Cracker Barrel puzzle. We showed that the endogenous information […] is I = 7.4 bits”

I tried to solve this conundrum, but I came up with I = 7.8 bits. I contacted the authors, but got no reply.

(Details about the Cracker Barrel puzzle – if you are interested)

I gave it a generous two stars. By chance, I looked up my link to my comment today, but I could not find my review – though it was up there for at least a couple of months. Does anyone know what has happened? Surely, The Three Doctores would not steep so low to eliminate unwanted critique!

Why be skeptical about Swamidass’ ‘Peaceful Science’ pitch?

This thread is meant to be a resource for people to express their hopefully sincere & proper skepticism about Dr. S. Joshua Swamidass’ so-called ‘Peaceful Science’ project on an on-going basis as issues & challenges arise. The purpose for starting this thread now is the announcement of a grant to Peaceful Science (PS) by the mutual fund wealth-based John Templeton Foundation. http://peacefulscience.org/new-voice/

I will express some of my skepticism about PS in a few words: Joshua is strangely aiming by ‘inviting all positions as equal’ to relativise the names ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve,’ while at the same time trying himself to become a ‘genealogist’. The woman in the pair he apparently has some kind of a gender bias against, since he hasn’t laid out why he sometimes omits her & only sometimes brings Eve into the conversation. I predicted here a few months ago that Joshua would eventually change his almost exclusively ‘Genealogical Adam’ talk to finally start being more inclusive with ‘Genealogical Adam & Eve.’ Joshua hasn’t taken the hint by adapting his language & thinking yet, though he has been known to change his mind about things in the past.

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Quantum Biology: The New Beginning

As I have already mentioned it many times before at TSZ quantum mechanics (or quantum physics) has become an inescapable part of many sciences today. Ever since Erwin Schrödinger wrote his book entitled:  “What is life?”, it became clear to many scientists that quantum aspects of life would have to make their way to biology.

But, just as it was the case with epigenetics, Darwinists  have been resistant to anything that would contradict their preconceived dogma of evolution.

Today, most of evolutionist, though still reluctantly, accept the well established epigenetic influence in the changes of life systems, and some, including few regulars at TSZ, act as if epigenetics has always been predicted by evolution…

Will quantum aspects of life be resisted by Darwinists the same way epigenetics or the ever dwindling so-called junk-DNA in human genome was and still is?

My bet would be that it would be very foolish but Darwinists are capable of that in order to protect their holy grail-Darwinian evolution…However, in some papers, Darwinists have begun to mention the quantum processes as “not well understood”; i.e. why evolution would prefer quantum processes over classical ones… It’s a lot of fun reading those papers with the biased Darwinist scrambling to explain why classical Darwinian evolution was bumped by quantum mechanics …

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Mutual Algorithmic Information, Information Non-growth, and Allele Frequency

Due to popular demand I will take a quick stab at explaining the applicability of mutual algorithmic information and the information non-growth law to an allele frequency scenario.

First, I’ll outline the allele frequency scenario.

The alleles are 1s and 0s, and the gene G a bitstring of N bits.  A gene’s fitness is based on how many 1s it has, so fitness(G) = sum(G).  The population consists of a single gene, and evolution proceeds by randomly flipping one bit, and if fitness is improved, it keeps that gene, otherwise it keeps the original.  Once fitness(G) = N, the evolutionary algorithm stops and outputs G, which consists of N 1s.  The bitstring that is N 1s will be denoted Y.  We will denote the evolutionary algorithm E, and it is prefixed on an input bitstring X of length N that will be turned into the bitstring of N 1s, so executing the pair on a universal Turing machine outputs the bitstring of 1s: U(E,X) = Y.

Second, I’ll briefly state the required background knowledge on algorithmic mutual information.

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Aphrodite’s head: Eight questions for Douglas Axe

Over at Evolution News, Dr. Douglas Axe argues that merely by using very simple math, we can be absolutely certain that life was designed: it’s an inescapable conclusion. To illustrate his case, he uses the example of a rugged block of marble being transformed by natural weather processes into a statue of a human being. Everyone would agree that this simply can’t happen. And our conclusion wouldn’t change, even if we (i) generously allowed lots and lots of time for the statue to form; (ii) let each body part have a (discrete or continuous) range of permitted forms, or shapes, instead of just one permitted shape; (iii) relaxed the requirement that all body parts have to form simultaneously or in sync, and allowed the different parts of the statue to form at their own different rates; and (iv) removed the requirement that the different parts have to each form independently of one another, and allowed the formation of one part of the statue to influence that of another part.

In his post, Axe rhetorically asks: if we’re so sure that a rugged block of marble could never be transformed by the weather into a human statue, then aren’t we equally entitled to conclude that “blind natural causes” could never have “converted primitive bacterial life into oaks and ostriches and orangutans”? In each case, argues Axe, the underlying logic is the same: when calculating the probability of a scenario which requires many unlikely things to happen, small fractions multiplied by the dozens always result in exceedingly small fractions, and an event which is fantastically improbable can safely be regarded as physically impossible.

In an attempt to persuade Dr. Axe that his logic is faulty on several grounds, I’d like to put eight questions to Dr. Axe, and I sincerely hope that he will be gracious enough to reply.

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ON why people can weigh the evidence and not consent to experts on any contention.

As a Christmas gift for creationists and all truth enquiring mankind i offer the intellectual foundation of opposing claims by a acclaimed authority.

Creationists/anyone are often enough told they must submit to scientists on conclusions about origins. to reject same conclusions is to reject science or reasonable claims of scientists to being experts in their subject as opposed to anyone else.

Does the free and thoughtful enquirer of truth owe such a deference? I say NO!

It is the intellectual right of all men to not submit to a expert in conclusions but listen to their evidence they have gathered. Then weigh it. In dealing with experts we owe a respect , a presumption, that they have studied uniquely some subject and have gathered knowledge about it. known or new insights.

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The Flagellum: The Icon of Courage by Michael Behe

As most readers at TSZ may already know, I disagree with Michael Behe on several issues (that I’m aware of) the one being common descent… I have expressed my doubts as to why Behe views common descent as a no problem for ID… To state my opinion again, I find that Behe is ‘publicly neutral’ on issues he can’t currently scientifically defend. He simply focuses on the empirical evidence that supports his views, such as the inabilities of mutations and natural selection to evolve complex structures, such as a bacterial flagellum, in small, gradual steps of Darwinian Evolution… Too me, his philosophy is cost effective (very smart) as it probably saves him a lot of unnecessary ‘beatings’ that he taken from Darwinists over the years…

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Does gpuccio’s 150-safe ‘thief’ example validate the 500-bits rule?

At Uncommon Descent, poster gpuccio has expressed interest in what I think of his example of a safecracker trying to open a safe with a 150-digit combination, or open 150 safes, each with its own 1-digit combination. It’s actually a cute teaching example, which helps explain why natural selection cannot find a region of “function” in a sequence space in such a case.  The implication is that there is some point of contention that I failed to address, in my post which led to the nearly 2,000-comment-long thread on his argument here at TSZ. He asks:

By the way, has Joe Felsestein answered my argument about the thief?  Has he shown how complex functional information can increase gradually in a genome?

Gpuccio has repeated his call for me to comment on his ‘thief’ scenario a number of times, including here, and UD reader “jawa” taken up the torch (here and here), asking whether I have yet answered the thief argument), at first dramatically asking

Does anybody else wonder why these professors ran away when the discussions got deep into real evidence territory?

Any thoughts?

and then supplying the “thoughts” definitively (here)

we all know why those distinguished professors ran away from the heat of a serious discussion with gpuccio, it’s obvious: lack of solid arguments.

I’ll re-explain gpuccio’s example below the fold, and then point out that I never contested gpuccio’s safe example, but I certainly do contest gpuccio’s method of showing that “Complex Functional Information” cannot be achieved by natural selection.   gpuccio manages to do that by defining “complex functional information” differently from Szostak and Hazen’s definition of functional information, in a way that makes his rule true. But gpuccio never manages to show that when Functional Information is defined as Hazen and Szostak defined it, that 500 bits of it cannot be accumulated by natural selection.

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