February 14th, 2013
The bulk of my graduate research is focused on the work and thought of Max Tegmark, an MIT astrophysicist/cosmologist, who’s responsible for a tremendous contribution to multiverse models. In honor of Charles Darwin’s 204th birthday he did an article for the Huffington Post, “Celebrating Darwin: Religion and Science are Closer Than You Think.” There are some very interesting survey results regarding faith and conflict between evolution and big bang cosmology.
So is there a conflict between science and religion? The religious organizations representing most Americans clearly don’t think so. Interestingly, the science organizations representing most American scientists don’t think so either: For example, the American Association for the Advancement of Science states that science and religion “live together quite comfortably, including in the minds of many scientists.” This shows that the main divide in the U.S. origins debate isn’t between science and religion, but between a small fundamentalist minority and mainstream religious communities who embrace science.
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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.
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September 24th, 2012
I was listening to William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith podcast on Sean Carroll on Science and God Part 1 this morning as I was walking from the parking lot into my office at University today, and I was quite surprised to hear a generalization Dr. Craig made concerning intelligent design.
Dr. Craig discusses how no models of the universe involve God. (This discussion begins around the 7 minute mark.) I think he’s correct in that we don’t have a physical theory of the universe that uses God as an entity in its explanation. For instance, you’ll find no entity in the standard model of particle physics that denotes God. However, Craig says that you do find this in the proponents of intelligent design theory “who want to postulate God as an entity in a scientific theory–that God would be like a quark, or a black hole, or a quantum field. He would be a theoretical entity postulated in a scientific theory.”
I have no doubt that there are intelligent design proponents, i.e. [young earth] creationists, who do this, but importing creationism into intelligent design theory strips ID for what it actually says.
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September 6th, 2012
A groundbreaking paper in Nature reports the results of the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project, which has detected evidence of function for the “vast majority” of the human genome. Titled “An integrated encyclopedia of DNA elements in the human genome,” the paper finds an “unprecedented number of functional elements,” where “a surprisingly large amount of the human genome” appears functional. Based upon current knowledge, the paper concludes that at least 80% of the human genome is now known to be functional:
The Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project has systematically mapped regions of transcription, transcription factor association, chromatin structure and histone modification. These data enabled us to assign biochemical functions for 80% of the genome, in particular outside of the well-studied protein-coding regions. Many discovered candidate regulatory elements are physically associated with one another and with expressed genes, providing new insights into the mechanisms of gene regulation.(The ENCODE Project Consortium, “An integrated encyclopedia of DNA elements in the human genome,” Nature, Vol. 489:57-74 (September 6, 2012) (emphasis added))
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August 3rd, 2012
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
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July 2nd, 2012
The Pre-Socratics were the first philosophers of science. They were known as the sophos (the wise ones). They were ecliplised by the British and German philosophers of science in the seventeenth century and were largely disconnected from science hence forth. Science sets the agenda, but philosophers bring philosophical reasons instead of scientific reasons. Science answers the questions. The Pre-Socratics were the first to deal with metaphysics and did so to provide a rational philosophy. This allowed for a rational and objective observation and the use of reason to systematize and order the content to make it coherent.
The Sophists were worldly-wise in contrast with the sophos–frustrated by the plurality of answers in the current philosophy. The Sophists were the original skeptics as evidenced in Pyrrho. They came out of the sixth century BC and broke away from religious dogma, which had never happened before. Their methods were pragmatic and subjective–rhetorical and fashionable. The phrase, “The One and the Many” became important. The One (reality) had everything related to it (Many). This is where we get Monism–the quality of oneness. We see Monism appear later in Leibniz’s monads, which take us to a single substance and leads to atomic theory.
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June 25th, 2012
Reblogged from Ann Gauger.
Comparing DNA sequences and estimating by how many nucleotides we differ from chimps doesn’t tell us much about what makes us human. Many of those nucleotide differences have no effect, because they are the product of neutral mutation and genetic drift. While these neutral mutations may affect the over-all mutation count, they don’t answer how many mutations are required for the transition from chimp-like to human.
This problem is analogous to one we examined concerning protein evolution last year in the journal BIO-Complexity (Gauger and Axe 2011). Converting one protein to another’s function can be viewed as a version, in miniature, of converting one species to another. But it is much easier to convert proteins than species.
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