If you have ever been part of the intelligence community even peripherally you are probably shocked by the amount of information that has been revealed about the operation that took down Osama Bin Laden. Good intelligence is often about limiting intelligence on a "need to know" basis. Yes, the American people did have a need to know about Bin Laden being taken out. Maybe not immediately, but certainly not long after the event the President needed to let the people know that the man behind many acts and attempted acts of terrorism against the USA and liberty had been killed. One more infamous evil coward has booked one-way passage on the Hell Train.
Atheism is a belief system and my attack on that system is resented by some and parodied by others. Those of you who know God understand that I am simply putting up a sign in front of a washed-out bridge warning travelers to stop and take the detour. There is no saving grace in Atheism, no good comes from Secular Humanism that wouldn't be much better with the love of God involved. The world needs more George Baileys and fewer Potters (like George Soros). Mr. Smith needs to go to Washington and kick Harry Reid out. Toss your Playboy magazine in the trash and read the Bible.
I see the previews for the popular sitcoms of today and it seems like Hollywood is intent upon making every kind of sin and depravity into either a joke or a normal standard of behavior. I am telling you that the Ten Commandments have not been revoked. Jesus fulfilled them and offers salvation as a free gift but so many of you are not just refusing it but you are reviling it and degrading both Christ and yourself. Somewhere inside of most of you there is still a part of you that is open to be convinced that God is God.
Anyway, while you consider the philosophical consequences of disagreement with God, allow me to present some great material from Cre-Evo:
Weird Evolution Tricks 05/13/2011
May 13, 2011 — Evolution is a strange theory; it goes forwards, backwards, sideways and nowhere, fast or slow, up or down, inside out and outside in. Here are some examples that contradict the slow, gradual picture of progress that was so popular in Victorian England.
- Re-using lost genes: Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology are claiming that evolution dug into an old bag of tricks and pulled out something lost 200 years ago. “Ever since Charles Darwin proposed his theory of evolution in 1859, scientists have wondered whether evolutionary adaptations can be reversed,” the press release from MIT News said. Examples have been the re-evolution of wings in insects (see 05/28/2003).
Using a computational model, Jeff Gore at the university decided that evolution can reverse itself, but only if fewer than four mutations were involved. He studied bacteria that achieved resistance to an antibiotic named cefotaxime. It took five mutations to confer resistance; there were 120 ways to get all five, but only 18 could actually occur, he found.
The article did not get back to the question of how insects could re-evolve wings – a reversal that would seem to involve many more than four mutations. It also repeated the discredited idea that the human appendix is no longer needed.
- Going nowhere: New Scientist announced in a bold headline, “Horsetail fossil tells tale of plant evolution.” But when the reader looks for said evolution, there is none to be found except a tale indeed. Alan Channing [Cardiff U] found a fossilized horsetail that must have been preserved in a hot spring environment. It looks modern: “Though a new species, the fossilised plant is quite similar to some horsetails living today with a single upright evergreen shaft,” the article confessed. While admitted that horsetails have had a “contested evolutionary history” that Channing’s work now “clears up,” the article went on to say that “The findings suggest horsetails experienced only modest innovations in their long evolutionary history.”
Innovations? The article presented no evidence of ancestors of horsetails. Worse, Channing’s study pushes the origin of modern-looking horsetails back another 14 million years, to 150 million years before the present. The fossil preserved “not only stems but also leaf sheaths, roots and reproductive structures.” It’s as if this plant popped into existence 150 million years ago and never dreamt up any new innovations all the way to the present except, if anything, the older ones were bigger and better: “Today’s horsetail plants are living fossils, the only surviving members of the class Equisetopsida, the article ended. “For more than a 100 million years, Equisetopsida plants dominated the understory of the late Mesozoic period forests, stretching up to 30 metres high.”
- Evolution in reverse: PhysOrg tells us that cicada-like insects called treehoppers cast aside their front wings 200 million years ago, only to call them up into service as headgear. “That’s probably shocking news if you are an entomologist, and challenges some very basic ideas about what makes an insect an insect, the researchers said.”
Strange things happen in evolution. “But then, some 50 million years ago, something strange happened to the cicada-like treehoppers: they once again sprouted wing-like structures from the top of the first segment of the thorax.” But they didn’t flap: “Some of these wildly divergent extrusions resemble thorns, others look like antlers, and still others like aggressive ants or animal droppings, creating one of Nature’s most exotic menageries.” It wasn’t clear if the capitalized Nature referred to the outdoors or the journal Nature, where the study made the cover story.1
What does this mean for evolutionary theory? “Evolution is usually described as linear, but these modified wings suggested the process had come full circle.” Turning evolution into a personified inventor, French biologist Benjamin Prud'homme said, “This extra pair of wings was not needed for flight, but nor did it prevent it. So it became raw material for evolution to play with.” A co-author said that the study shows “how development abilities can be lost or silenced over millions of years, only to be redeployed to contribute to the evolution of a complex and beautiful appendage.” The abstract of the Nature paper remarked, “This innovation in the insect body plan is an unprecedented situation in 250 Myr of insect evolution.” The paper claimed this required no new genetic information: “We submit that morphological innovations can arise from the deployment of existing but silenced developmental potentials, therefore requiring not so much the evolution of new genetic material but instead the expression of these potentials.”
- Evolution in hiding: Biologists who study fungi have found an embarrassing surprise: according to PhysOrg, “a hitherto unknown type of fungi which has fundamentally expanded the scientific understanding of this group of organisms.” A British team has uncovered a whole new group of fungi which they named cryptomycota – hidden fungi.
Dr Tom Richards, from the University of Exeter’s Biosciences department and the Natural History Museum London, said: “This study has been very surprising – not least because the original sample came from the nearby pond. Fungi have been well studied for 150 years and it was thought we had a good understanding of the major evolutionary groups, but these findings have changed that radically.Cryptomycota apparently lack a rigid cell wall. What does this mean? The article referred to the fungus as either an “intermediate state” or a “living fossil,” but admitted that it must be successful: “Despite lacking the tough cell wall, they seem still to be very successful in the environment because of their extensive diversity and cosmopolitan distribution.” The discovery also points out that biologists may be oblivious to large segments of the living world: “Until recent years, researchers investigating microbial diversity have sampled by growing microbes in lab cultures, but now it seems that the vast majority of life forms are never captured using these methods – meaning most of the evolutionary complexity of life remains unsampled.”
“Current understanding of fungal diversity turns out to be only half the story – we’ve discovered this diverse and deep evolutionary branch in fungi that has remained hidden all this time.”
- Evolution by loss: A lizard in Cambodia has no legs or eyes. The BBC News has a picture of what looks like an earthworm, but is a “legless lizard” that has also lost its eyes. Uncommon Descent teased about “Evolution as loss of function.”
- Unnatural selection: What would you call “unnatural selection”? Would it be synonymous with intelligent design? Not according to Michael Le Page at New Scientist, who has been writing a series about how humans are harming the environment with their pesticides, hunting, climate change, pollution, diseases, and shuffling of invasive species. He left begging the question of whether humans were naturally selected to do this.
1. Prud'homme et al, “Body plan innovation in treehoppers through the evolution of an extra wing-like appendage,” Nature Volume: 473 (05 May 2011), pp. 83–86, doi:10.1038/nature09977.
By making evolution mean anything, they make it mean everything – and therefore nothing. By creating an illusion of progress, evolutionists have created the perfect conspiracy: a way to snow the public under the banner of science, using the Stuff Happens Law (SHL). Philosophers may realize that “stuff happens” amounts to a failure of scientific explanation, but by calling it something more sophisticated – evolution – evolutionists can tinker with it in countless ways. Being inherently flexible, the Stuff Happens Law lends itself to endless corollaries that can be couched in Darwinian jargon.Ben Stein's expose of Darwinian intolerance in Expelled three years ago did not make the Darwinists repent. It made them even more intolerant. In the 05/12/2008 entry, read accounts of subsequent acts of Darwinist bigotry, and a commentary on why the very institutions founded to protect rights often end up doing the exact opposite.
Strange stuff happens (evolutionary reversal)
Stuff happens at any speed (evolutionary stasis or radiation)
Stuff happens by surprise (evolutionary innovation)
Stuff re-happens (circular evolution)
Stuff survives happenstance (living fossils)
Stuff makes other stuff happen (humans affecting biology by “unnatural selection”)
As long as creative minds inhabit evolutionary biology labs, the future looks bright for endless twists on Darwin’s tale. Whether this amounts to science is an entirely different question.
Next headline on: Genetics • Plants • Terrestrial Zoology • Politics and Ethics • Darwin and Evolution • Fossils • Dumb Ideas
Who’s Playing Your Gene Piano? 05/12/2011
May 12, 2011 — Is your genetic code a library or a musical instrument? Scientists have long considered it to be like the former, a genetic code. Now, however, a new metaphor is emerging: a piano. Discoveries in epigenetics (beyond-the-gene), processes that determine which genes are played or silenced, are tending toward the new interpretation.
In Medical Xpress, a headline reads, “Study gives clue as to how notes are played on the genetic piano.” It features the work of Dr. Kohzoh Mitsuya [U of Texas Health Science Center] who studies genes as if watching a performance: epigenetics “corresponds to a pianist playing a piece of music,” he said. “Like keys on a piano, DNA is the static blueprint for all the proteins that cells produce,” the article described. “Epigenetic information provides additional dynamic or flexible instructions as to how, where and when the blueprint will be used.”
His work has only identified one note on the piano so far: DNA methylation, a process that silences genes by having an RNA attach a methyl group to them. After watching the response of mice deficient in the RNA, he said, “It shows how one note is played on the piano.” Perhaps, though, the piano is just one instrument of a larger work. “The symphony has only just come into view,” Dr. Mitsuya said. “We can hear it, but we need to learn how all the parts are being played.” His team’s work, published in Science today,1 did not mention pianos or music, but did not discuss evolution, either.
1. Watanabe, Tomizami, Mitsuya et al, “Role for piRNAs and Noncoding RNA in de Novo DNA Methylation of the Imprinted Mouse Rasgrf1 Locus,” Science, 13 May 2011: Vol. 332 no. 6031 pp. 848-852, DOI: 10.1126/science.1203919.
OK, who’s the pianist? Who’s the conductor? Metaphors can be misleading, and should not be pushed too far, but this one causes trouble for Darwin while it fits neatly into intelligent design. The environment cannot be the musician; it is oblivious to the needs of the organism. Heredity cannot be the musician; it has no foresight to read or comprehend a collection of processes organized into a work.
Function (the requirement of an organism to survive and reproduce) is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the origin of the information required to produce function. Darwinists: don’t give us that line, “If it hadn’t evolved, it wouldn’t be there.” Science is supposed to seek efficient causes, not just-so stories or appeals to chance based on circular reasoning. The alternative explanation, intelligent design, is the only explanation with a known cause sufficient to produce functional information: intelligence.
The article referred to a NOVA special that called epigenetics “The ghost in your genes.” Just when neuroscience thought they had exercised the ghost in the machine of the brain, another shows up in the genetic code. Ghosts have a way of coming back to haunt the overconfident.
Next headline on: Genetics and DNA • Intelligent Design
Science Out of Touch 05/11/2011
May 11, 2011 — When science became a profession instead of an avocation, there were some unintended consequences. Scientists began to lose touch with the public. When a scientist goes to work doing science for a living, he or she sometimes takes public support for granted, thinking the work is justified for its own sake. Recent articles, however, warn scientists and scientific institutions to re-think their presumed authority. They need to start acting more accountable to the public who expects a return on investment.
Part of the need for scientists to re-evaluate their status comes from mistakes and surprises. Society looks to scientists to understand the world, but often, they are caught off guard or backtracking on previously well-established theories. In today’s news, for instance, the BBC said that astronomers are “mystified” by high-energy gamma rays seen coming from the Crab Nebula. Space.com says this burst “defies explanation.” Many of the findings from the Cassini Mission to Saturn, like the Enceladus geysers and the lack of an ethane ocean on Titan, contradicted predictions and still have no explanation. PhysOrg reported that the discovery of hot Jupiters (gas giants orbiting near other stars) orbiting backwards “so obviously violates our most basic picture of planet and star formation.”
Another embarrassment comes when the public comes to believe, or scientists admit, that their projects were not worth doing in the first place. For instance, the political push for biofuels is well known, but PhysOrg reported on a study that shows that conventional fossil fuels are sometimes greener than biofuels, when their entire carbon footprint is measured. Remember the promises of artificial intelligence (AI)? PhysOrg reminded readers that back in the 1950s and 60s, “hopes were high that tools emerging from the new science of computation would soon unravel the mysteries of human thought.” Since then, AI research has had to dramatically reduce its aspirations; “As the computational complexity of even the most common human cognitive tasks became clear, however, researchers trimmed their sails,” the article admitted, quoting one researcher who couldn’t imagine building a robot able to reach into its pocket for its keys. Embryonic stem cell research has yet to produce one actual treatment despite soaring promises, and the Human Genome Project, while generating a great deal of knowledge, similarly failed to simplify our understanding of human diseases. Last week, Science News reported that “Evolutionary literary criticism” (see 01/27/2006) has flopped, remaining unpopular in the university.
To be sure, any investigation of the unknown is going to have problems and setbacks. But when the public pays for it, or when parents pay big bucks to have their children sit under science professors, they have reason to expect some return on investment. This was emphasized in a Nature editorial this week,1 “Value judgements.” Members of the public are stake-holders in science, the editors admitted; their values cannot be ignored. Scientists cannot just assume that the old canard of “knowledge for its own sake” will sell. A recent symposium published by the journal Minerva raised awareness of this:
Policy-makers, funders and scientists should take note. For example, a paper by Ryan Meyer, also a policy scientist at Arizona State University, focuses on the failure of the US government’s Global Change Research Program to deliver broad public value (Minerva 49, 47–70; 2011). Basing his studies on public statements and private interviews with researchers and political decision-makers, Meyer says that US climate programmes have in the past two decades benefited from public investment of more than US$30 billion, but have largely failed to produce information and participation in the forms that policy-makers and the public wanted. The notion that society considers any advance in knowledge to be inherently good – even if the science fails to meet the objectives and priorities it was meant to address – cannot be sustained, says Meyer.The editorial reflected on post-normal science: “Science becomes ‘post-normal’ when facts are uncertain, stakes high, values in dispute and decisions urgent; in such cases, societal needs must be taken into account to avoid costly mistakes.” The controversies about climate science come to mind. The editors pointed to climate science as an example; “But, according to the workshop participants, most climate researchers continue to act as if purely scientific values are, and will always be, adequate to set the agenda.” The editors of Nature agree with the scientific consensus on climate science, but realize that scientists have lost the public trust on the matter. This pointed up another unintended consequence of the professionalism of science: scientists became a special-interest group, seeking their own priorities instead of those of society:
More importantly, these studies highlight a significant deficit in current typical appraisals of science and technology outcomes. They should serve as cautionary tales about the danger of scientists’ interests, deliberately or otherwise, becoming too dominant in determining outcomes. And they introduce ways to assess failures in social returns on investment that, one can only hope, will help to improve science’s public value.How did science become professionalized in the first place? The Scientist presented an essay by historian of science by Laura J. Snyder. “In the 19th century, four friends changed the way scientists viewed themselves,” the subtitle of her essay begins. She believes, “It’s time for another shake-up.” Those four friends, featured in her new book The Philosophical Breakfast Club (Broadway Books, 2011), were William Whewell (who coined the term scientist), Charles Babbage, John Herschel, and Richard Jones. “Each of the four men was brilliant, self-assured, and possessed of the optimism of the age,” Snyder said. It was these four, who met for “Philosophical Breakfasts” to discuss the status of science, who were most influential in transforming science “from the province of the amateur—the clergyman collecting fossils or beetles in his spare hours, or the wealthy gentleman conducting electrical experiments at his country estate—to the career of the professional: trained at the university, published in specialized journals, and admitted to associations open only to fellow professionals.” Darwin, for instance, rode the wave that elevated the scientist to the revered professional. But then Snyder pointed out that the achievement of these four philosophers led to a serious problem plaguing science in our day:
One of the unintended consequences of the revolution wrought by the Philosophical Breakfast Club has been that the professional scientist is now less interested in, and perhaps less capable of, connecting with the broader public, sharing the new discoveries and theories that most excite the scientific community. Although there are some notable exceptions, today’s researcher has been less adept than the Victorian-era natural philosopher at engaging the public—and this estranged the general public from science. In part this is because the scientific establishment discourages its members from writing popular books and articles, considering these projects unserious, even frivolous, diversions from the real work of research. But this attitude has to change in order to mend the ever-deepening rift between science and the rest of modern culture. Today’s scientist should strive to be more like the 19th-century natural philosopher—ironically, more like those very men who created the modern scientist.
1. Editorial, “Value judgements,” Nature 473 (12 May 2011), pp. 123–124, doi:10.1038/473123b.
The points are well taken, but Snyder and the editors of Nature ignore a couple of realities: one, that many members of the public are just as informed, intelligent, and worthy of being heard as professional scientists, and two, that not all sciences are epistemically equal. Much in biochemistry is testable and repeatable, for instance, but theories of the origin of the universe or the evolution of life are not. A third oversight is that information flows one way: from scientist to public. There needs to be a two-way dialogue.
The label scientist is an honored badge that attracts many who do not deserve to wear it. We would include evolutionists as among the worst who take on the label but provide no return on investment to society – in fact, who do much to misuse and harm society while bragging about their status as scientists. A PhD confers no more authority on a scientist than a real estate license does on a realtor; it depends on what the indivdiual person does with the skills and learning they acquired.
The legacy of the Philosophical Breakfast Club is interesting history; clearly, however, much has happened since then. It would be unrealistic, if not ridiculous, to expect science today to go back to being a part-time hobby of clergymen and wealthy gentlemen, not just because many scientists these days are female. The complexity of science has grown enormously since the days of Babbage, Herschel and Whewell (Scientist of the Month for Nov 2010). It takes money and large teams to do spacecraft, giant telescopes and genomics. We’re stuck with big science and professionalism.
There’s something to be said though, for more private involvement in science. Consider the benefactor-funded origin of the Palomar Observatory, and today’s private-enterprise space projects. Look, too, at the good work being done by citizen scientists (PhysOrg). If the root meaning of science is knowledge, any human has the freedom and obligation to increase it. Better a field amateur with years of observations than an armchair professor pontificating from his PhD microphone.
Even if the professionalization of science has had unintended consequences, those consequences are not insurmountable. Increased scrutiny, accountability, and humility by scientists are worthy steps. We mean no insult to the many honorable scientists using their position for good, doing honest work each day, and providing society with a good return on investment. Professional scientists need to realize, though, they they must earn their wings each day. Not everything they do is scientific, and not everything a non-scientist does is unscientific. A scientist speaking outside his or her area of knowledge can have opinions no better than those of anyone else.
One of the best correctives would be to have the media get out of the lap of scientific institutions and turn their critical-thinking scopes on science with the aid of philosophers, ethicists and taxpayer-watchdog groups. It’s time to doubt the presumptive authority of science and call scientists to reveal their assumptions, justify their methods, face their critics honestly, and serve society rather than preach to it.
Next headline on: Stars • Solar System • Politics and Ethics • Philosophy of Science • Media