Friday, November 29, 2013

Are Humans Long Pig? or Monkey-Fish-Frog?

Does the creature on the right look more like a primate?  It isn't.  It is a non-primate mammal with a severe developmental anomaly, a mammal that would not ordinarily have a very primate-like face.  I don't think anyone, as yet, knows what causes this syndrome.  I don't think the syndrome has ever been considered important enough to investigate.

I came across a very interesting series of articles at by a Dr. Eugene McCarthy with a PhD in genetics. He specializes in cross-species hybridization (he has a book on avian examples), and he makes a thought-provoking argument that because humans share so many traits uncharacteristic of the great apes and that many of these traits are similar to those  of a particular non-primate mammal that the traits are best explained by an extremely unlikely hybridization event.  It sounds more than a little “monkey-fish-frog” (or man-bear-pig, if you get that reference), but even if the conclusion seems absurd, the evidence he brings up is compelling, the unlikelihood of a successful hybrid stabilization event notwithstanding.

There are many things about this theory (along with the reactions to it) that are engaging.  One is the following angle:  How well does Dr. McCarthy’s evidence support considering the human genome as a intentional incorporation of specific pieces of non-primate DNA into the basic ape architecture in a way  that required specific knowledge of the architecture?  That is, how much does it resemble a deliberate engineering effort?  (Aside: Some groups might be more supportive of pig-chimp theory if it declared that "all men are pigs" at the exclusion of the female gender.)

With all the evidence that McCarthy trots out, it seems like a wonder that humans are considered so closely related to apes.  Think of the paleontological primacy of bone structure and how it is undermined by marsupial phylogeny.  Based on bone structure alone, it would be impossible to realize how different many marsupials are from their convergently evolved  placental counterparts.  Dr. McCarthy has begun to question the assumptions of paleontology (if it's really old it must be something like a lizard) and whether some dinosaurs should be considered to be much more like mammals than reptiles.  (And how long did it take for paleontology to accept the idea that some dinosaur creatures could be more avian than reptilian?)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sun-Gazing: Tired Darwinist Arguments Against the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics

Who says Neo-Darwinists can't evolve?   The appearance of Intelligent Design has afforded them to add a new argument to the standard one of  "just add sunlight":  "Young Earth creationists have been pointing to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics for years, so you can dismiss the argument out of hand."  If you don't believe me, look at how many articles start out with "guilt by association."   These same articles will purport to open your eyes to the (supposedly) mere rhetorical devices of all nonbelievers in Darwinism (collectively and misleadingly, called "creationists").
Accepting for the moment Sewell’s idiosyncratic terminology, we can say that if we take the Earth by itself as our system, then there is definitely something entering to make an increase in biological complexity more likely. The solar energy received by the Earth fuels the chemical reactions that allow living organisms to survive and reproduce. This cycle of survival and reproduction ultimately leads to natural selection, which can, in turn, lead to increases in biological complexity. Minus that energy living organisms would quickly go extinct and evolution would not occur. --Jason Rosenhouse  
The gas I put in my car certainly makes locomotion much more likely to happen.   How the gas makes an engine more likely is apparently unnecessary to explain, though it's the difference between my car behaving like a vehicle or like a pretty boulder.  Rosenhouse would almost certainly cry foul to this and fall back on the most common version of "I just point at the sun":  evolution works through an alchemical combination of chance and necessity as revealed in the Methinks It Is Like A Weasel experiments of the renowned atheism evangelist Richard Dawkins.  It is almost suggested that some precursor to natural selection acted on protometabolic processes, leading ultimately to natural selection in his words.  I say "almost" because I am giving the benefit of the doubt since it really does sound like the availability of energy to exploit directly leads to survival of complex cybernetic entities (i.e. "living organisms") which directly leads to complexity.   Keep this progression/cycle in mind.

Another argument that is almost always present either implicitly or explicitly is the bandwagon argument.  If you perceive a problem with the aforementioned progression, that means many people much more distinguished than you are wrong, and you don't want to appear foolish, do you?  Again, these articles proceed unabashedly in this manner even while warning you of the fallacious rhetoric of the enemy.

I want to revisit Rosenhouse's last sentence there:
Minus that energy living organisms would quickly go extinct and evolution would not occur.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Stuart Newman: handwaving arguments undermine public trust

(about halfway through the Youtube video)

Stuart Newman speaks out on the negative effects of "entrenched old science":
Suzan Mazur: What is the danger in mediocre science being pushed on the public, aside from the wasting of public funds at a time of serious economic downturn in America?
Stuart Newman: It seems to me that if somebody is predisposed to be skeptical, perhaps because they are religious, and are told that the vertebrate column, for example, had to have evolved incrementally – they may not be persuaded by it because it’s not true, even though their motivation not to be persuaded might come from their religion. Then scientists who are working on this embryonic mechanism who have shown that there are non-incremental mechanisms that produce these things come along, and therefore everybody who’s been assuring this skeptic that it’s all incremental turns out to be wrong.
It really undermines confidence in science if people are always being subjected to what we call "handwaving arguments" that all complexity had to have had an incremental origin.
Suzan Mazur: Sam Smith of Progressive Review recently said the following: “[Scientists] are also subject to that most pernicious of academic temptations: the desires and biases of their funders.” He refers to the “distorting role of the Defense Department, agribusiness and pharmaceutical corporations in supposedly objective science.” Would you comment on that?
Stuart Newman: That’s true. I don’t know how pertinent it is to the evolution debate. I don’t think the pharmaceutical companies have a role in steering the field away from self-organization. In fact, if it’s true and you can patent it and make money on it, they’ll chase after that. So I don’t think the businesses, although they do have this grip on scientific development – I don’t believe they’re ideological in that way. The ideology really comes from entrenched old science – people who are educated in biology with no sense of physical sciences. The inertia and obduracy comes from the side of the scientific establishment rather than from industry.