April 27th, 2013
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.
read more »
April 26th, 2013
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).
read more »
March 20th, 2013
I attended the Discovery Institute’s Summer Seminar on Intelligent Design (Social Science) in 2010. My thoughts and comments will be general since we were asked not release specifics concerning information being shared (some of it was yet-to-be published and I don’t know if it has been published yet so I’ll remain silent) and I do not want to “out” any other attendees in their academic endeavors. Once you’re labeled as an ID proponent your academic career is potentially slowed down or halted. I’ve already outed myself and I’m pretty vocal about my advocacy of design (I’m a philosopher so it’s not as academically persecuted).
I have no negative comments concerning the DI’s seminar. In fact, I have more respect for the institute and fellows. There were two concurrent seminars (natural and social sciences) that interacted with each other on a regular basis and combined on many occasions. I participated in the social science seminar and being philosophy graduate student I’m not as adept in biology, chemistry, and physics as many others are. I certainly received a welcoming abundance of science in presentations, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Some of the lecturers included Stephen Meyer, Michael Behe, William Dembski, Doug Axe, Jay Richards, Jonathan Wells, Richard Sternberg, Ann Gauger, Bruce Gordon, Jonathan Witt, John West, and Casey Luskin.
read more »
March 16th, 2013
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.
read more »
February 27th, 2013
Reblogged from David Klinghoffer.
Congratulations are in order. Columnist Mark Vernon in The Guardian has honored Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False with his annual Most Despised Science Book award. By that, Vernon means the book that most attracted the ire of the scientifically orthodox by violating cherished taboos — a good thing, in other words:
Steven Pinker damned it with faint praise when he described it in a tweet as “the shoddy reasoning of a once-great thinker.” Jerry Coyne blogged: “Nagel goes the way of Alvin Plantinga,” which is like being compared to Nick Clegg. All in all, Nagel’s gadfly stung and whipped them into a fury.Disparagement is particularly unfair, though, because the book is a model of carefulness, sobriety and reason. If reading Sheldrake feels daring, Tallis thrilling and Fodor worthwhile but hard work, reading Nagel feels like opening the door on to a tidy, sunny room that you didn’t know existed.
read more »
February 21st, 2013
Reblogged from Jonathan M. and the Discovery Institute.
Join Discovery Institute staff and associates in Greater Philadelphia on April 5 and 6 for the 2013 Westminster Conference on Science & Faith. The event will be held at Covenant Fellowship Church, and is headlined by Oxford mathematician and philosopher Professor John Lennox, and leading intelligent design theorist and philosopher of science Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, author ofSignature in the Cell.
The theme is origins: of the cosmos, of increasingly complex life, and of life itself.
Other speakers include molecular biologist Dr. Douglas Axe, political scientist Dr. John G. West, theologian Dr. Vern Poythress, bioethicist Dr. Megan Best, and theologian Dr. Scott Oliphint. To whet your appetite for this year’s conference, here’s a short trailer featuring clips from last year:
February 11th, 2013
The following originally appeared in The New York Times by Jennifer Schuessler.
In 1974 Thomas Nagel published “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?,” a short essay arguing that the subjective experience of consciousness — what philosophers call the “qualia” — could not be fully reduced to the physical aspects of the brain.
That essay framed a landmark challenge to the materialist view of the mind that was then prevailing and helped cement Mr. Nagel’s reputation as one of the most incisive and imaginative of contemporary philosophers.
But since the late October release of his latest book, “Mind and Cosmos,” reviewers have given Mr. Nagel ample cause to ponder another question: What is it like to be an eminent (and avowedly atheist) philosopher accused of giving aid and comfort to creationist enemies of science?
Advocates of intelligent design have certainly been enthusiastic, with the Discovery Institute crowing about Mr. Nagel’s supposed “deconversion” from Darwinism. The book, subtitled “Why the Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False,” has also drawn appreciative notice from conservative publications that might normally disdainMr. Nagel’s liberal writings in moral and political philosophy.
The response from scientists and most of his fellow philosophers, however, has ranged from deeply skeptical to scorching.
read more »
January 14th, 2013
There isn’t a straight line of demarcation between science and pseudoscience (PS), which is universally applicable in all fields categorized as scientific. A general guide for demarcating between the two is that the theory should have observable evidence, provides predictions, uses non-controversial reasoning, and is repeatable. These are simply guidelines and do not necessarily count as criteria for disqualifying a theory if all aren’t met because some are simply untenable depending on the field in which they are applied. Falsification is not necessary for a scientific theory but it does help substantiate the theory as a robust scientific theory.
When considering the criterion of observable evidence I make the distinction between observation and what is empirical. Something may be observed and qualify as evidence even though it’s not related to material causes. 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. In the mid 1800’s William Whewell was the first to restrict science to only mean natural science. Pierre Duhem followed this idea and constructed a methodology, which barred explanations to material causes. For instance, agent causation is completely compatible with Augustinian science but is prohibited as a scientific explanation in Duhemian science. Agent causation is something that can be observed but isn’t necessarily reductionistic in the material sense as with material causation because agent causation has metaphysical import.
read more »