Mooning the Public: Life Sells
April 27, 2009
Advertisers have known for a long time that sex sells. That’s why ads often include a scantily-clad woman standing next to the pickup truck for sale. It seems that in planetary science, life sells. An icy moon can be a pretty dull thing, but announce that there might be life there, and eye appeal jumps. […]
Missing Links Found: Walking Seal, Teen Tyrannosaur
April 23, 2009
Science news media are abuzz with reports that two missing links have been found. One is a fossil seal (pinniped) with four legs, the other a smaller presumed ancestor of the famous Tyrannosaurus rex. Seal: National Geographic News calls it a seal with arms, and features artwork of an otter-like animal doing a kind of […]
Publish Your Kooky Idea
April 22, 2009
Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute has a solution for sorting science from pseudoscience: publish. In the weekly SETI article for April 16 on Space.com, he said he gets lots of wacky theories in the mail and email. What’s the best way to sift through claims and find the gems? Publication. Shostak acknowledged […]
April 21, 2009
Anyone analyzing a scientific explanation should evaluate whether it explains the phenomenon or explains it away. For instance, to say that bats have sonar because they evolved it provides little in the way of understanding of how or why that happened. Recently, some scientific papers have directly addressed the topic of complex systems in biology. […]
How Valid Is Computerized Dinosaur Reconstruction?
April 18, 2009
Can you reconstruct a dinosaur on a computer? Of course you can. The question is how accurate it reflects something no one has ever seen. Live Science told about Peter Falkingham at the University of Manchester who is using “genetic algorithms” and simulating evolution to figure out how dinosaurs walked. A dinosaur’s gait […]
Geophysical King Dethroned?
April 17, 2009
There’s been a quiet revolution in geophysics. Richard Kerr asked in Science, “Great Oxidation Event Dethroned?”1 The Great Oxidation Event (GOE) is an assumed time before multicellular life appeared when microbes had just learned the secret of photosynthesis and started pumping vast quantities of fresh oxygen into earth’s atmosphere (10/18/2006). The GOE idea reigned like […]
Plant Evolution: Wheres the Root?
April 16, 2009
To Darwin, the origin of flowering plants was an “abominable mystery.” Recently, some entries on Science magazine’s blog Origins have claimed the mystery has been solved, at least partially, and a full solution is near at hand. Here is a great test case for evolution. Angiosperms comprise a huge, diverse population of organisms. There should […]
Is Darwinism Useful Explaining Cognition?
April 15, 2009
One would think the evolution of mind involves a straightforward account of improving cognition as one progresses up the evolutionary tree. It’s not so simple, said two researchers in a Nature essay:1 Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is broadly accepted among biologists, but its implications for the study of cognition are far from […]
Better Solar Cells with Diatoms
April 14, 2009
Let’s start with the operative quote before the subject matter: “Nature is the engineer, not high tech tools. This is providing a more efficient, less costly way to produce some of the most advanced materials in the world.” OK, now the subject: how to build better solar cells, by imitating diatoms. See the story on […]
Is Horizontal Gene Transfer a Force for Evolution?
April 13, 2009
Two more genomes were published last week: the information libraries of two tiny microbes. They are members of Micromonas, green algae less than two microns across. The original paper and summary both bragged about how the genetic information is helping shed light on evolution, but did the data really contain any light? If so, the […]
Animal Flight Control: Wheres the Evolution?
April 12, 2009
A couple of articles in Science last week discussed the marvels of flight control in birds. “Being earthbound save for the ability to fly airplanes and helicopters, humans stand in awe of animals that power their own movement through the air by flapping their wings, and of the spectacular maneuvers that some of these animals […]
A Darwinist Religious Experience Described
April 11, 2009
As millions of Jews celebrate Passover, and as millions of Christians gather to celebrate Easter, a Darwinist reporter was experiencing “existential vertigo” – a sweeping sense of dizziness as her imagination zoomed in and out of the implications of her faith. It may be the closest thing that a secular materialist can call a religious […]
Art as Propaganda for Evolution
April 10, 2009
Should a scientific theory be propagated by appeal to scientific evidence, or by appeal to emotions through visualization? Nature this week contained two articles that shamelessly praised art as propaganda for evolution. Surprisingly, one of them mentioned Charles Darwin as someone “at the cutting edge of visualization.” Endless Forms: Carl Zimmer reviewed an exhibit currently […]
Did Nature Dictate Biological Codes?
April 9, 2009
Pangloss was a character in Voltaire’s Candide made to caricature philosophers who give simplistic, optimistic answers to difficult questions. Dr. Pangloss was fond of saying, a la Leibniz, that we live in the best of all possible worlds. One evolutionist described a theory by two other evolutionists as possibly a “Panglossian argument” about the origin […]
Did Early Man Have a Soul?
April 8, 2009
Some recent discoveries are surprising paleoanthropologists by much some early ancestors seem – well, human. We’re talking about ancestors half a million years old in the evolutionary scheme. They were supposed to be prior to Homo sapiens and the Neanderthals, but they seem to exhibit intelligence and compassion. A report on New Scientist […]