Posts tagged ‘biology’

December 10th, 2013

Nobel Prize Winner Starts a Boycott of Top Science Journals

by Max Andrews

After this I feel a huge sigh of relief coming… A relief that science hasn’t been hijacked by the one-track minded aristocrats of scholarship who only want to monologue. Remember what happened to Einstein and Higgs’ first major papers that led to amazing theories and confirmations? Oh, yeah…

Source: The Guardian

Leading academic journals are distorting the scientific process and represent a “tyranny” that must be broken, according to a Nobel prize winner who has declared a boycott on the publications.

Randy Schekman, a US biologist who won the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine this year and receives his prize in Stockholm on Tuesday, said his lab would no longer send research papers to the top-tier journals, Nature, Cell and Science.

Schekman said pressure to publish in “luxury” journals encouraged researchers to cut corners and pursue trendy fields of science instead of doing more important work. The problem was exacerbated, he said, by editors who were not active scientists but professionals who favoured studies that were likely to make a splash.

July 17th, 2013

How “Sudden” Was the Cambrian Explosion?

by Max Andrews

Original post by Casey Luskin.

On June 19, the day after Darwin’s Doubt was first available for purchase, Nick Matzke published a 9400-word “review” of the book in which it appears that he tried to anticipate many of Stephen Meyer’s arguments. Unfortunately, he often either guessed wrong as to what Meyer would say or — assuming he actually read the book as he claims — misread many of Meyer’s specific claims. As I showed in a previous response to Matzke, Matzke repeatedly misquoted Meyer, at one point claiming he referred to the Cambrian explosion as “instantaneous,” when Meyer nowhere makes that claim. Indeed, Matzke faulted Meyer for not recognizing that the Cambrian explosion “was not really ‘instantaneous’ nor particularly ‘sudden.’”

July 1st, 2013

The Problem of Whale Evolution and Darwinism

by Max Andrews

When evaluating population drift/evolution one must keep in mind a pattern/process distinction.

  • To be explained:  A pattern of a sequence of ancestors to present (a phylogenetic sequence)
  • Explanation:  High random mutation rates + high selection coefficients –> Incremental genetic change over time (“evolution”)

We now know that the majority of anatomical changes unique to fully aquatic cetaceans (Pelagiceti) appeared during just a few million years.

April 27th, 2013

Life Before Earth

by Max Andrews

The following is the abstract from a recent paper (“Life Before Earth,” 28 March 2013) published in arXiv by Alexei A. Sharov, Ph.D. (Staff Scientist, Laboratory of Genetics) and Richard Gordon, Ph.D. (Theoretical Biologist, Embryogenesis Center). What’s quite startling and significant about this paper is that it compares to the complexity found in biology and compares it to Moore’s Law, which is a computer/computational complexity. What’s important is not the mere issue of complexity but the specific coding elements required for specific function in conjunction with complexity. Thus, the information content is very complex, robust, and specified.


An extrapolation of the genetic complexity of organisms to earlier times suggests that life began before the Earth was formed. Life may have started from systems with single heritable elements that are functionally equivalent to a nucleotide. The genetic complexity, roughly measured by the number of non-redundant functional nucleotides, is expected to have grown exponentially due to several positive feedback factors: (1) gene cooperation, (2) duplication of genes with their subsequent specialization (e.g., via expanding differentiation trees in multicellular organisms), and (3) emergence of novel functional niches associated with existing genes. Linear regression of genetic complexity (on a log scale) extrapolated back to just one base pair suggests the time of the origin of life = 9.7 ± 2.5 billion years ago.

April 26th, 2013

Science and Efficient Causality

by Max Andrews

Any type of efficient causality is typically associated with being an unscientific explanation—explanations nonetheless but unscientific.  It is believed that if biology, chemistry, physics, etc. rested explanations in final causation then it would be a science stopper.  This is where the distinction between Duhemian science and Augustinian science must be made. I would deny the use of Duhemian science.  This method, or philosophy, has a goal of stripping science from all metaphysical imports.  Augustinian science is open to metaphysical presuppositions with science.  Francis Bacon and Descartes used and allowed for formal and final causation in scientific explanation.  Newton entered science and postulated that the universe was entirely mechanistic, which was a denial of Baconian and Cartesian science (at least their versions of scientific explanation) but offered no explanation for the appearance of final causation and efficient causation.  Darwin came along and provided a plausible material mechanism for the appearance of final and efficient causation (at least for the special science of biology).

March 16th, 2013

Two Leading Experts on Bacterial Flagellar Assembly Take on Michael Behe

by Max Andrews

Reblogged from Jonathan M. at Evolution News and Views…

I’ve been reading the recently published book Microbes and Evolution: The World that Darwin Never Saw, which combines my two primary areas of interest: microbiology and evolution. Chapter 38 of the book is written by Kelly Hughes and David Blair of the University of Utah, two of the world’s leading experts on bacterial flagellar assembly. Having followed the work of Kelly Hughes and his colleagues for a few years, I hold their work in the highest regard. I myself have a deep fascination with the subject of bacterial gene expression. I was intrigued, therefore, when I discovered the title of Hughes and Blair’s chapter: “Irreducible Complexity? Not!”

Following a very basic overview of flagellar structure and function (also described in my own detailed review of the subject), Hughes and Blair ask, “Is the flagellum irreducibly complex, or just complex?” They write,

It is clear that the flagellum is a complex structure and that its assembly and operation depend upon many interdependent components and processes. This complexity has been suggested to pose problems for the theory of evolution; specifically, it has been suggested that the ancestral flagellum could not have provided a significant advantage unless all of the parts were generated simultaneously. Hence, the flagellum has been described as “irreducibly complex,” implying that it is impossible or at least very difficult to envision a much simpler, but still useful, ancestral form that would have been the raw material for evolution.

November 26th, 2012

Call for Papers on the Philosophy of Science and Science

by Max Andrews

This is a call for papers to be submitted to me for online publication with Sententias. I’m looking for about ten papers. Please include an abstract and Turabian format. The paper can be a minimum of 4 pages but there’s not maximal limit. I will compile the papers and put them in the first volume and issue of the Sententias Journal (Free online PDF file). This is just to kickstart more activity for Sententias to take part in. Depending on the feedback and participation we can make this a peer-reviewed process so we can have some respectable esteem. But, for now, we need to start modestly. Theists, atheists, Christians, evolutionists, and intelligent design proponents are all welcome. Here are a few suggested options:

  • What’s a scientific theory?
  • What’s a scientific explanation?
  • Breaking down a particular interpretation of quantum physics.
  • Brak down a model of cosmological origins.
  • Argue for Darwinism
  • read more »

  • August 3rd, 2012

    The Edge of Evolution

    by Max Andrews

    Darwinism is a multipart theory.  Some parts may be right, others may be wrong.  It’s important to distinguish what is right and what is wrong.

    • Common descent (interesting, but trivial)
    • Natural selection (interesting, but trivial)
    • Random mutation
    • The critical claim of Darwinism is the sufficiency of random mutation

    The problem of rugged evolutionary fitness landscape

    April 22nd, 2012

    Evolution Seen in ‘Synthetic DNA’

    by Max Andrews

    Original post by BBC Science & Technology.

    Researchers have succeeded in mimicking the chemistry of life in synthetic versions of DNA and RNA molecules.  The work shows that DNA and its chemical cousin RNA are not unique in their ability to encode information and to pass it on through heredity. The work, reported in Science, is promising for future “synthetic biology” and biotechnology efforts. It also hints at the idea that if life exists elsewhere, it could be bound by evolution but not by similar chemistry.

    In fact, one reason to mimic the functions of DNA and RNA – which helps cells to manufacture proteins – is to determine how they came about at the dawn of life on Earth; many scientists believe that RNA arose first but was preceded by a simpler molecule that performed the same function.

    However, it has remained unclear if any other molecule can participate in the same unzipping and copying processes that give DNA and RNA their ability to pass on the information they carry in the sequences of their nucleobases – the five chemical group “letters” from which the the two molecules’ genetic information is composed.

    April 3rd, 2012

    Why I’m a Christian: Juan

    by Max Andrews

    I am a Christian because I didn’t choose God, rather He chose me.

    I was 18 years old in college. After experiencing the human condition; the lack of love, care, charity and the abundance of pain and suffering in the world and in myself. I realized that although I had a very good life, I was loved and cared for, and suffered comparatively to others very little; my own struggles always took precedence over others and realized that even when I did something good it was often with selfish reasons (It felt good or I will be liked). I looked in the mirror attached to my combination dresser/desk of my small dorm and wondered, why are we the way we are? It was then that I realized that there was something intrinsically wrong with all of us.

    In my search for answers; I engulfed myself in searching for that silver bullet that could explain this predicament. It wasn’t until my second year in college that I really started to get depressed over this seemingly unattainable goal; I saw no explanation in sight. Until one night as I cried on my mother’s lap and she asked me what was wrong. I asked her in the hopes that maybe she knew the answer but she didn’t.