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.
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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.
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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.
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March 11th, 2013
Reblogged from Clara Moskowitz.
The findings are detailed in a paper to appear online in [the Feb. 28] issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters…
Astronomers have captured what may be the first-ever direct photograph of an alien planet in the process of forming around a nearby star.
The picture, which captured a giant alien planet as it is coming together, was snapped by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile. It shows a faint blob embedded in a thick disk of gas and dust around the young star HD 100546. The object appears to be a baby gas giant planet, similar to Jupiter, forming from the disk’s material, scientists say.
“So far, planet formation has mostly been a topic tackled by computer simulations,” astronomer Sascha Quanz of ETH Zurich in Switzerland, leader of the research team, said in a statement. “If our discovery is indeed a forming planet, then for the first time scientists will be able to study the planet formation process and the interaction of a forming planet and its natal environment empirically at a very early stage.”
The star HD 100546, which lies 335 light-years from Earth, was already thought to host another giant planet that orbits it about six times farther out than the Earth is from the sun. The new potential planet lies even farther, about 10 times the distance of its sibling, at roughly 70 times the stretch between the Earth and sun. [Giant Planet In the Making Spotted? (Video)]
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March 8th, 2013
Reblogged from The Atlantic.
More Christian parents are asking for mainstream science in their children’s curricula. Will religious textbook companies deliver?
For homeschooling parents who want to teach their children that the earth is only a few thousand years old, the theory of evolution is a lie, and dinosaurs coexisted with humans, there is no shortage of materials. Kids can start with the Answers in Genesis curriculum, which features books such as Dinosaurs of Eden, written by Creation Museum founder Ken Ham. As the publisher’s description states, “This exciting book for the entire family uses the Bible as a ‘time machine’ to journey through the events of the past and future.”
It’s no secret that the majority of homeschooled children in America belong to evangelical Christian families. What’s less known is that a growing number of their parents are dismayed by these textbooks.
Take Erinn Cameron Warton, an evangelical Christian who homeschools her children. Warton, a scientist, says she was horrified when she opened a homeschool science textbook and found a picture of Adam and Eve putting a saddle on a dinosaur. “I nearly choked,” says the mother of three. “When researching homeschooling curricula, I found that the majority of Christian homeschool textbooks are written from this ridiculous perspective. Once I saw this, I vowed never to use them.” Instead, Warton has pulled together a curriculum inspired partly by homeschool pioneer Susan Wise Bauer and partly by the Waldorf holistic educational movement.
Continue reading the original story from The Atlantic…
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.
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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 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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