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Chinks in the Scientific Method

V & V. That’s shorthand in project design for “validation and verification.” Does the scientific method provide V & V? We are all taught to think that peer review, publication and replication help science to be self-checking, so as to avoid error. Some recent articles show that ain’t necessarily so. It may sound good in theory, but in practice, the ideal doesn’t always match the real.

Snowflake Designers

Could any “useless” natural object composed of simple materials exceed the beauty of a snow crystal? As you wish for a white Christmas, think about two snowflake designers: one who makes them in a lab, and one who makes them in clouds.

Human Variability Can Be Rapid

All living humans are interfertile – one species by definition. People from all parts of the globe can marry and have children, even though global travel is relatively recent in human history. Yet we know there is considerable variability between tribes and nationalities. Does this variability take millions of years? Does it lead to the origin of new human species? Recent evidence shows that variations can be rapid, both genetic and acquired, without reducing interfertility.

Good Science Requires Good Ethics

Science is conducted by humans for humans. It is not done in a vacuum. Even the lone researcher working in a basement hopes to make a discovery worth sharing. The need for ethical science shows most clearly when humans experiment on humans – with or without their consent. Two recent articles underscore the indispensability of moral grounds for science, and a third raises questions about the source of morality.

Hopping Fish and Other Darwin Mysteries

The chieftans of evolutionary theory insist that their doctrines have come a long way since Darwin. Discoveries in molecular biology, population genetics, biogeography, paleontology have left the Victorian concepts of evolution outdated and antiquated, they would say. Yet a look at the evolutionary literature shows otherwise. Simplistic just-so stories, Darwinian phrases like “survival of the fittest” and “missing link,” iconic fossils, and antiquated principles continue to be the rule, as the following articles illustrate.

Early Man Stories Evolve

Early man evolved, evolutionary scientists assure us. But it's not clear what is evolving more: our ancestors, or the tales told about them.

Biomimetics for Your Christmas Wish List

Biomimetics (the imitation of nature) continues to promise cool gadgets and useful materials that will someday yield prized gifts under the tree. Some of them might even save your life.

The Science of Atheism

Science news sites have recently included some unusual articles: reports about the science of atheism. What can scientists say about atheism without leaving the domain of science altogether?

The Science of Thanksgiving

Should science tread into areas of virtue?  Here’s how a science news entry begins: “Rather than rolling your eyes when it’s your turn to bow your head and give thanks, try being grateful. The result just might be good for you. From boosting your mood to improving your relationships, research shows that being thankful is […]

Why Scientists Need Christianity

The exposure of a decade-long career of fraud by a social psychologist two weeks ago sent the scientific community reeling. In the aftermath, another social psychologist claims that social psychology can heal itself with its own principles. Buried within her arguments, though, are Christian presuppositions.

Follow the Stem Cell Money

A major clinical trial using embryonic stem cells was suddenly halted this week. Meanwhile, trials with adult stem cells are steamrolling ahead. Why the difference?

Darwin Still Rules from the Grave

Darwin died in 1882, but more than any other scientist, seems to live on in the science news. Here are some recent examples. The question is: do any of these articles really have anything to do with the theory that made him famous? Or is some other dynamic at work that keeps him in the forefront?

Selling Confabulation as Science

Science is supposed to be all about demonstrable proof through experiment. Should some scientists get away with confabulation – mere storytelling? Look at these recent headlines published on science news sites and consider whether some serious housecleaning is in order.

Animal Plan: It Works Well

There were Greek and Roman naturalists who were intrigued by what they saw in the living world, but their observational tools were limited to their five senses. Modern science has expanded our senses far beyond the capabilities known just a century ago. We are privileged to live in an age of discovery that is revealing even more wonders beneath the surface of living things, wonders worth knowing about. Here are just a few.

Your Copper Pipes

Each of us is part metal. Our bodies contain iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, manganese, vanadium, molybdenum, selenium, and even nickel like the coins in our pockets or purses. Unlike the other common elements of life (carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, calcium, nitrogen, phosphorus), our metals are not synthesized and recycled, but must be imported and handled with care. Copper is a good example of a biological metal that performs multiple useful functions – that is, unless something goes wrong with the machinery handling it.
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