Uncommon Descent

23 May 2007

Radiation-Eating Fungi

dacook

Life’s capabilities continue to astound. Another assumption of mainstream science is overturned: Now we find that some kinds of fungi can grow very nicely, thank you, in very high radiation environments, and even appear to thrive, using radiation as an energy source.
I wonder; in what sort of environment did these organisms evolve to account for this remarkable ability?

From a report on a study by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine:

“Scientists have long assumed that fungi exist mainly to decompose matter into chemicals that other organisms can then use. But researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have found evidence that fungi possess a previously undiscovered talent with profound implications: the ability to use radioactivity as an energy source for making food and spurring their growth.
“The fungal kingdom comprises more species than any other plant or animal kingdom, so finding that they’re making food in addition to breaking it down means that Earth’s energetics—in particular, the amount of radiation energy being converted to biological energy—may need to be recalculated,” says Dr. Arturo Casadevall, chair of microbiology & immunology at Einstein and senior author of the study, published May 23 in PLoS ONE.”

It seems that certain fungi, specifically those containing melanin, the same stuff that give us those nice cancerous tans, thrive in high radiation environments. In their discussion the researchers note:
Read More »

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23 May 2007

Front Loading?! Say it isn’t so!

PaV

Scientists have now found that the Hox genes necessary for tetrapod development is present in a primitive fish (a paddlefish). Here’s part of what they write:

“Tetrapods have a second phase of Hox gene expression that happens later in development. During this second phase, hands and feet develop. Although this second phase is not known in zebrafish, the scientists found that it is present in paddlefish, which reveals that a pattern of gene activity long thought to be unique to vertebrates with hands and feet is in fact much more primitive.

This is the first molecular support for the theory that the genes to help make fingers and toes have been around for a long time—well before the 375-million-year-old Tiktaalik roseae, the newly found species discovered in 2004 by Shubin and colleagues. Tiktaalik provided a missing evolutionary link between fish and tetrapods and was among the first creatures that walked out of water onto land.” (Taken from PhysOrg.com. Here’s the link.)

Poor old Tiktaalik roseae! It’s fifteen minutes of fame is over. So much for “a missing evolutionary link”.

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23 May 2007

How applied pugilistic ideology might be used against Guillermo Gonzalez at Iowa State - Part II of an interview with Dr. Ivan A. Conway Moore, Ph.E.

Galapagos Finch

How might Iowa State University President Geoffrey apply pugilistic ideology in his June 6th decision concerning tenuring of Christian Professor Guillermo Gonzalez? Dr. Moore offers his expert opinion. Read more MOORE…
TheBRITES.org

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22 May 2007

Introducing “Sewell’s Law”

Granville Sewell

In an April 2, 2007 post, I noted the similarity between my second law argument (”the underlying principle behind the second law is that natural forces do not do macroscopically describable things which are extremely improbable from the microscopic point of view”), and Bill Dembski’s argument (in “The Design Inference”) that only intelligence can account for things that are “specified” (=macroscopically describable) and “complex” (=extremely improbable). I argued that the advantage of my formulation is that it is based on a widely recognized law of science, that physics textbooks practically make the design argument for you, all you have to do is point out that the laws of probability do (contrary to common belief!) still apply in open systems, you just have to take into account the boundary conditions in the case of an open system (see A Second Look at the Second Law ).

However, after making this argument for several years, with very limited success, I have come to realize that the biggest disadvantage of my formulation is: it is based on a widely recognized law of science, one that is very widely misunderstood. Every time I write about the second law, the comments go off on one of several tangents that sometimes have something vaguely to do with the second law, but have in common only that they divert attention away from the question of probability.

So I have decided to switch tactics, I am introducing Sewell’s law: “Natural forces do not do macroscopically describable things which are extremely improbable from the microscopic point of view.” I still insist that this is indeed the underlying principle behind all applications of the second law, the only thing that all applications have in common, in fact. But since even the mention of “second law” draws such “kneejerk reactions” (as Philip Johnson put it), let’s forget about the second law of thermodynamics and focus on the underlying principle, Sewell’s law. My main point is still the same as before, that natural forces cannot rearrange atoms into computers and spaceships and the Internet here, whether the Earth is an open system or not. But now you cannot avoid the question of probability by saying the second law doesn’t really apply to computers and spaceships (although most physics textbooks do apply it to the breaking of glasses and burning of libraries, etc); whether the second law applies or not depends on which formulation you buy. But it seems to violate Sewell’s law. Unless, of course, you believe that it is not really extremely improbable that the four forces of physics would rearrange the basic particles of physics into computers and TV sets and libraries full of novels and science texts; in that case I can’t reach you.

Am I proposing this new law seriously, or tongue in cheek? You decide.

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22 May 2007

The Most Dangerous Place to Discuss ID — The University Campus

William Dembski

I had an interesting conversation today with a tenured scientist who is on faculty at a research university. He was recently invited to defend ID at a public forum at the university. He declined to do it. Here’s why. Although he is a proponent of ID, he has never taught it in his classes. He is afraid that if he defends it on campus, even in a public forum arranged by one of the science departments, he will be branded as “having taught ID on campus.” This, he fears, will be used against him down the line — and he is right. He therefore told the department chair that tried to get him to speak at the forum that he would do so only if it were off-campus. The chair understood and agreed that this was the prudent course to take.

Lesson 1: Our university campuses are now the most dangerous places to discuss ID if you have anything to lose.

Lesson 2: Our best hope for getting ID discussed on college campuses is therefore the undergraduates, who have nothing to lose.*

—–
*You can always transfer to another institution. And because of your youth, you can always feign immaturity if you need to wheedle your way back into the system: “I was young and impressionable, and those evil ID guys bamboozled me. But now I’ve seen the true light of Darwinism …”

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22 May 2007

Nazism and Darwinism on Film

Theodosius

I saw a film recently that I think would interest anyone who is concerned about the moral implications of Darwinism, and who also believes that art can help us to reflect upon moral issues.

The film is Germany Year Zero (Germania Anno Zero, 1947), by Roberto Rossellini, shot in the ruins of Berlin in the aftermath of World War II with non-professional German actors (albeit dubbed in Italian).

Like the near-contemporaneous films of Vittorio De Sica (Shoeshine, Bicycle Thieves), Germany Year Zero paints a compelling portrait of the chaos and poverty afflicting the civilian population—especially children—immediately following the war.

What makes Germany Year Zero of exceptional interest, however, is the way in which it builds to an almost unbearably sad climax, due in large part to the effect of lingering Nazi propaganda on the mind and conscience of an individual child.

Edmund, the l2-year-old boy at the center of the story, is convinced by his teacher to commit an abominably evil act for which he afterwards cannot forgive himself. And the argument employed by the teacher is couched explicitly in terms of the “philosophy” of the survival of the fittest.

Not only is Germany Year Zero a cinematic experience you will not soon forget; it also provides much food for thought about Darwinian metaphysics and the human conscience.

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22 May 2007

IPCC Ignores Studies of Soot’s Effect on Global Warming

DaveScot

The Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC) drastically understates the warming potential of soot (black carbon) in its report to policy makers. The IPCC has an agenda and that agenda is to blame manmade carbon dioxide emission for climate change. Europe and Asia emit most of the soot from burning coal, wood, dung, and diesel in open fires or without particulate filters in stoves, chimneys, smokestacks, and exhaust pipes. The United States has been restricting soot emissions in Draconian fashion since the Clean Air Act of 1963. The IPCC agenda is really about blaming the United States. I document all this below the fold. Read More »

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22 May 2007

The Chronicle says of Gonzalez “a clear case of discrimination”

DaveScot

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a balanced article on Iowa State’s refusal to tenure Guillermo Gonzalez.

Advocate of Intelligent Design Who Was Denied Tenure Has Strong Publications Record
By RICHARD MONASTERSKY

At first glance, it seems like a clear-cut case of discrimination. As an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Iowa State University, Guillermo Gonzalez has a better publication record than any other member of the astronomy faculty. He also happens to publicly support the concept of intelligent design. Last month he was denied tenure.

Read More

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21 May 2007

World Renowned Cosmologist Frank Tipler on Sci Phi Show!

scordova

One of my favorite ID proponents, Frank Tipler, was recently interviewed on the Sci Phi show.

To hear the 28-minute interview, visit: Frank Tipler on Sci Phi show.

Some of Tipler’s ID-related work has appeared in prestigious journals like Nature. One of Tipler’s recent ID-related papers appeared in the journal Reports on Progress in Physics in 2005. Tipler lays out the physics in that technical article which he describes for the layman in his new book The Physics of Christianity.

In addition, Tipler published some of his ID-related work on the Arxiv server. His most recent article is Intelligent Life in Cosmology [March 2007]. Here are some quotes:

Teleology has been completely rejected by evolutionary biologists. This rejection is unfortunate, because, teleology is alive and well in physics

and

If the laws of physics be for us, who can be against us?

Tipler is author of The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (1987), one of the 3 ID books which began the modern ID movement.

Tipler was a provisional atheist in 1992 when he wrote the book The Physics of Immortality. He describes his subsequent conversion to Christianity in the Sci Phi show interview. That was a complete surprise to me! My name was mentioned in the show because I had consistently described Tipler as a provisional atheist. That used to be the case for Tipler, but his research in physics has now persuaded him that God exists.

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21 May 2007

Gonzalez case - Prof, do you know what time it is?

O'Leary

A friend writes to say, “Guillermo [Gonzalez] has three (not two) papers exceeding 100 citations each. An updated list is attached that includes a few more of his publications. This is really impressive.” (If you are just joining us today, Guilllermo Gonzalez is the gifted ID-friendly astronomer who was recently denied tenure under suspicious circumstances at Iowa State University.)

From the screen capture my correspondent attached, I assume he means, for example, papers like GONZALEZ G ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS, Title: Spectroscopic analyses of the parent stars of extrasolar planetary system candidates, cited 153 times.

He also draws my attention to the AA (Atheists and Agnostics) meeting posted on the ISU Web site, attacking Gonzalez by name.

Now, I am all for vigorous debate at a university and despise political correctness, but note that the university itself also has the spin machine whining 24/7 on the site, announcing that a poisoned environment was never an issue.

I guess one page doesn’t know what the other is doing. But so much for the claim that there was no underlying anti-ID component. I would love to see that tested in court, and maybe I will.

The major lesson from all this, I think, is that Read More »

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21 May 2007

“We must stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science.” –Al Gore

William Dembski

Here is a quote from Al Gore’s The Assault on Reason (I took it from the excerpt from his book in the current Time Magazine):

In order to reclaim our birthright, we Americans must resolve to repair the systemic decay of the public forum. We must create new ways to engage in a genuine and not manipulative conversation about our future. We must stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science. We must insist on an end to the cynical use of pseudo-studies known to be false for the purpose of intentionally clouding the public’s ability to discern the truth. Americans in both parties should insist on the re-establishment of respect for the rule of reason.

In writing this, Gore no doubt is thinking about protecting his views on global warming and the environment from criticism. But I expect his intolerance of any attacks on reason, as he understands reason, will apply as well against intelligent design. From the Time Magazine excerpt, Gore comes across as an Enlightenment rationalist who, in the best Jacobin style, won’t tolerate any challenge to his conception of reason.

Gore seems to miss the irony in all this. He bemoans Bush’s intolerance of terrorism and Bush’s willingness to use torture to bring terrorists to heel, and yet is ready to be intolerant of anyone who violates his “rule of reason.” Question: Which would you rather live under: intolerance of terrorism or intolerance of the rule of reason?

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20 May 2007

Professor of Atmospheric Science Says Global Warming a Myth

DaveScot

Augie Auer, Professor of Atmospheric Science for 22 years at the University of Wyoming, says global warming is a myth and it will be joke material in 5 years.

Global warming debunked
By ANDREW SWALLOW - The Timaru Herald | Saturday, 19 May 2007

Read More »

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20 May 2007

More on the “fruit flies that think”

O'Leary

Recently, I reported on an experiment with fruit flies that showed that the flies are not robotic, but can engage in spontaneous behavior.

In a recent Daily Telegraph article, Roger Highfield explains:

“The point here is that the people claiming that free will doesn’t exist say that one day we will be able to show exactly why a murderer must necessarily have acted the way he did by looking closely at his brain. We can show that you cannot even do this in fly brains, as a matter of principle.”

That’s the key, of course. It is a matter of principle (actually, fact) that flies do not behave like robots.

Also,

These results caught computer scientist and lead author Alexander Maye from the University of Hamburg by surprise: “I would have never guessed that simple flies who otherwise keep bouncing off the same window have the capacity for nonrandom spontaneity if given the chance.”

Great fly graphics too.

I am not sure, however, that the researchers have discovered in flies what humans mean by free will. Read More »

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20 May 2007

Complex Specified Information - It’s not that hard to understand

DaveScot

In another thread there’s a discussion about specified complexity. I think the problem with specification is it’s a subjective measure but it shouldn’t be hard to understand. Most people intuitively recognize it and draw conclusions from it. To explain I’ll use a deck of cards and a conclusion that just about any reasonable person, with or without knowing what specified complexity is, will recognize and draw the same conclusion based on it. Then I’ll present a like example from a living thing and ask you be the judge of whether there is specification. Read More »

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19 May 2007

Piscataway Institute of Technology Adopts “Separate but Equal” Policy Between Scientific Materialists and Persons of Faith.

Galapagos Finch

TheBRITES.org

Could Iowa State be Next? Read More

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