Scientific Discoveries Can Cast Doubt on Long-Held Beliefs
You have to look beneath the surface veneer of bluffing in science news to see how the sausage is made before it gets packaged to the press.
At best, science is tentative. Any consensus is vulnerable to overthrow by new findings. This may sound like a recipe for progress, but the new findings themselves are vulnerable to overthrow down the road. Obviously some progress is being made, particularly in engineering: that’s why cell phone cameras keep getting better. The more remote from reproducibility a scientific theory is, though, the more vulnerable to overhaul or replacement. Here are some examples of long-held beliefs coming under doubt.
The amyloid hypothesis on trial (Nature). In a special series on Alzheimer’s Disease, Nature finds that long-held hypotheses about amyloid tangles causing the malady are ripe for reconsideration. “As the development of treatments for Alzheimer’s disease continues to stumble, is it time for researchers to broaden their list of the condition’s potential causes?”
Yosemite granite ‘tells a different story’ story [sic] about Earth’s geologic history: Finding upends scientific understanding of how granites form (Science Daily). Explaining granite has long been a challenge, but the best hypotheses fail to account for one of America’s most famous national parks, Yosemite. The repercussions extend to the whole globe, and to what geologists think they know:
A team of scientists including Carnegie’s Michael Ackerson and Bjorn Mysen revealed that granites from Yosemite National Park contain minerals that crystallized at much lower temperatures than previously thought possible. This finding upends scientific understanding of how granites form and what they can teach us about our planet’s geologic history. …
“These granites tell a different story,” Ackerson added. “And it could rewrite what we think we understand about how Earth’s continents form.”
These findings could influence our understanding of the conditions in which the Earth’s crust first formed during the Hadean and Archean. They could also explain some recent observations about the temperature at which volcanic magmas exist before eruption and the mechanisms through which economically important ore deposits form.
Discovery of a silicate rock-boring organism and macrobioerosion in fresh water (Nature Communications). Fossil hunters are going to have to give up one of their diagnostic instruments. “In paleontology, the presence of rocks with boreholes and fossil macroboring assemblage members is one of the primary diagnostic features of shallow marine paleo-environments,” this paper warns: “…Our findings highlight that rocks with macroborings are not an exclusive indicator of marine paleo-ecosystems, but may also reflect freshwater habitats.”
Yellowstone super-volcano has a different history than previously thought (Science Daily). Perhaps you’ve seen the diagrams of Yellowstone’s caldera migrating across a mantle plume. Now a Virginia Tech geoscientist offers a different story: “Yellowstone super-volcano eruptions were produced by gigantic ancient oceanic plate.” Researchers indirectly found a structure under the volcano that contradicts the plume theory. “In this research, there was no evidence of heat coming directly up from the Earth’s core to power the surface volcano at Yellowstone,” one author said. Were you told that this? “It has always been a problem there, and scientists have tried to come up with different ways to explain the cause of Yellowstone volcanoes, but it has been unsuccessful.”
Local Winds Play Key Role in Some Megafires (Jet Propulsion Laboratory). Before blaming wildfires on climate change, look what scientists at JPL found about one of the biggest recent megafires, the 2014 King Fire in the Sierra Nevadas:
Although drought and overgrown forests are often blamed for major fires in the western United States, new research using unique NASA before-and-after data from a megafire site indicates that highly localized winds sometimes play a much larger role — creating large, destructive fires even when regional winds are weak….
“This brings into question several widely held and largely unquestioned assumptions, such as very large fires being caused by the accumulation of vegetation, persistent dry conditions, or requiring extreme conditions,” said NCAR scientist Janice Coen, the lead author of the study. In the King Fire, she pointed out, “Small-scale winds and winds generated by the fire had a much greater impact on this fire, and potentially others like it, than any of the other factors.“
High glucose spikes are common in ‘healthy’ people (Science Daily). Are ‘sugar highs’ a bad thing, a warning sign of diabetes? In some people they are, but Stanford researchers were surprised to find, when they monitored glucose levels over time, “that ‘normal’ blood glucose levels are often not normal at all—they stray much farther from the healthy ranges than we assumed.” Results in 57 individuals showed large fluctuations and spikes in normal people. “We were very surprised to see blood sugar in the prediabetic and diabetic range in these people so frequently” said Michael Snyder, PhD, Professor and Chair of Genetics at Stanford and senior author of the study.
Cross species transfer of genes has driven evolution (Phys.org). The implications of this article for evolutionary theory are inestimable. If what they say is correct, that organisms are borrowing genetic information, what happens to all those stories about mutations, natural selection and survival of the fittest?
Far from just being the product of our parents, University of Adelaide scientists have shown that widespread transfer of genes between species has radically changed the genomes of today’s mammals, and been an important driver of evolution.
In the world’s largest study of so-called “jumping genes”, the researchers have traced two particular jumping genes across 759 species of plants, animals and fungi. These jumping genes are actually small pieces of DNA that can copy themselves throughout a genome and are known as transposable elements.
They have found that cross-species transfers, even between plants and animals, have occurred frequently throughout evolution.
Along this line, Evolution News has been reporting on a new paper by Winston Ewert in the ID journal Bio-Complexity that explains the nested hierarchy of organisms far better than Darwin’s “tree of life” concept. The new Dependency Graph Hypothesis, which includes shared modules, fits the actual genomic data better than Darwinism by orders of magnitude, Cornelius Hunter says. The paper is creating quite a stir in ID circles, the fallout of which remains to be seen.
Humans did not stem from a single ancestral population in one region of Africa (Science Daily). We’re so accustomed to hearing “everything you know is wrong” about human evolution, this one may not rise above the din. It complicates the “Out of Africa” hypothesis that has been taught as fact for decades, though. Darren Curnoe at The Conversation says that the story of human origins is getting “dizzyingly complicated” with the realization that hybridization has probably occurred often between groups. Chris Stringer comments, “As with the material culture, we do see a continental-wide trend towards the modern human form, but different modern features appear in different places at different times, and some archaic features are present until remarkably recently.” How is that a trend?
In his book Darwin Retried, journalist Norman Macbeth discovered a new logical fallacy he termed the “best-in-field fallacy.” Noticing how often Darwinists rationalized their contradictions with the excuse that Darwinism was the “best theory we have” for origins, he noted that the “best” theory may not be a “good” theory. It may the best of the worst, the least lame horse in the race.
Some of the most common words we find in our science reporting: overturn, challenge, upend, question, complicated, remarkable, rewrite, assumptions, radical, and other such words that weaken the feeling citizens should have about scientific “understanding.” Remember how long Ptolemy’s neat system was unquestioned by scientists? About 1,500 years.