Thursday, October 16, 2014

Engineering Hypothesis

The Engineering Hypothesis:
Engineers know how important it is, and how much thought it takes, to create a storehouse of reusable components that can be assembled in various ways to do various things. The existence of a limited number of core processes that are essential for all forms of life, and used so artfully in so many different ways, demands a designer even more strongly than Paley’s watch. Life is not only complex, but it is optimally designed to make the broadest use of a limited number of proteins and processes. K&G want you to accept by faith, without proof, that all the biological core processes evolved by chance before the Precambrian era, and were able to assemble themselves into so many different configurations by luck because they had “weak linkage.” 
-- Do-While Jones
topical index

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Evolutionary theory needs a rethink

The number of biologists calling for change in how evolution is conceptualized is growing rapidly. Strong support comes from allied disciplines, particularly developmental biology, but also genomics, epigenetics, ecology and social science. We contend that evolutionary biology needs revision if it is to benefit fully from these other disciplines. The data supporting our position gets stronger every day.
Yet the mere mention of the EES often evokes an emotional, even hostile, reaction among evolutionary biologists. Too often, vital discussions descend into acrimony, with accusations of muddle or misrepresentation. Perhaps haunted by the spectre of intelligent design, evolutionary biologists wish to show a united front to those hostile to science. Some might fear that they will receive less funding and recognition if outsiders -- such as physiologists or developmental biologists -- flood into their field.
(Kevin Laland, Tobias Uller, Marc Feldman, Kim Sterelny, Gerd B. Müller, Armin Moczek, Eva Jablonka, and John Odling-Smee, "Does evolutionary theory need a rethink? Yes, urgently," Nature, Vol. 514:161-164 (October 9, 2014) (emphasis added).)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

snowclone of denial

Snowclone of denial:

And I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world that's completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that's fine. But don't make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.

Look for stuff on the British NCSE BSCE  

Monday, October 6, 2014

Questions about Flock of Dodos and Jonathan Wells

Olson essentially took off the gloves in response to an “attack” that was “launched” by Discovery Institute.  Olson’s use of one interviewee’s positive response about this seems as selective as his choice of “Icons” (i.e. Haeckel’s embryos) and his choice of interviewees with which to debate evolutionary “truths.”   Having talked personally (not an interview) with John Calvert, I can say you will not hear such a glowing review about fair representation.  Calvert says that Olson edited his interview with Calvert to tell a very different story about the search for Haeckel’s embryos than what actually took place.  In Flock there is a time lapse with Olson’s narration filling in the gap implying that Calvert was searching for the most recent textbook using Haeckel’s embryos and could only find it in a very old textbook, though Calvert intimates that it was a convenient source to show the pictures. Upon watching Flock  I was sure that I had seen Haeckel’s embryos twice (two different books by evo-devo biologists) just that month, but even in relatively short books I had a hard time finding the exact locations of the pictures, even while consulting the indices.  Illustrations recently viewed were hard to find even when I knew exactly which books to look in. Calvert thinks Olson was both unfair and disingenuous. 

Of course, the obvious question would be to next ask: “So just to clarify, you are saying that there are people around that remember George Washington?”  You have to wonder why Olson doesn’t ask for clarity on that point.   

Is Jonathan Wells in fact a "biologist"? Science Citation Index cites two abstracts (1995) which he coauthored. Ironically one is Molecular Biology of the Cell 6, 666. Clearly he's not currently an active research biologist. His educational goals were apologetic, not scientific. He's a minister in the Unification Church (a "Moonie" in popular culture, see home page). His goal in obtaining a biology Ph. D. was to discredit Darwinism rather than to understand biology. This is hardly scientific objectivity.

More motive-mongering.  Wells can’t be a biologist because he has the wrong motives.  I wonder how many of the 94% of bio PhDs who are atheists and/or agnostics consider “understanding biology” and “discrediting” intelligent design to not only be non-conflicting, but to be nearly synonymous.  How many consider “understanding biology” and “discrediting” theism to not only be non-conflicting but mutually reinforcing?  How many actively tell their students this?   They are a dime a dozen.   “Moonie” is not quite so neutral a term as “Mormon”— I doubt that any Unification follower would generally accept “Moonie”.  In their heyday, the Moonies were seen as yet another weird thing in the cultural upheaval of the 70s, and the heirs of positivism take delight in associating Wells with that epithet.  Wells can’t be a scientist: he’s a religious minister after all, and in one of them weird cults to boot. 

None of these champions for truth can take the man on his own terms.