Brave New Chimeras

Tampering with human embryonic stem cells has been at the forefront of ethical debates for a decade. Behind it, though, lurks an even more alarming prospect: the creation of human-animal hybrids. As with embryos, the appeal has been to improve human health. But ethicists ask if there is any benefit worth blurring the line between humans and animals. Pro-chimera advocates admit there is a certain “disgust” factor that could arouse public anxiety, and agree that experimentation would need to be regulated. But who would regulate the regulators, and on what moral grounds?

Earth Uniqueness Up; SETI Down

Our earth seems special – maybe because it is. Some astronomers are seriously considering that life might be rare or unique on our rare (or unique) planet. If so, hopes for finding sentient aliens on the celestial radio dial drop accordingly. The 50th anniversary of the first SETI search came, unfortunately for search enthusiasts, came at a time when funding is harder to get.

Archaeopteryx Reclassification Raises Fear of Creationists

Archaeopteryx isn’t the first bird. At least, not today. It may be reclassified again, but Xing Xu, the man who brought a panoply of “feathered dinosaurs” to the world’s attention, has announced another Chinese fossil that led him to shuffle the bird evolution tree around, putting Archaeopteryx, an “icon of evolution” since its discovery in1861, onto a branch that includes dinosaur terrors like Deinonychus. At least, today. The backstory behind the shuffling of family trees, an upset that raises questions about everything evolutionists that they knew about the evolution of birds, is political, not scientific. Evolutionists are worried about how creationists are going to “spin” the news.

Weird Evolution Tales

Evolutionary theory leads to some fantastic tales. Since evolution is often presumed to be a fact that explains everything in biology, and is itself not subject to testing or doubt, everything in biology must be viewed through an evolutionary lens. This hard-core stance on evolution often leads to assertions and explanations that appear contrived, if not preposterous, to Darwin doubters. Here are some recent examples of weird evolution stories that made it past the logic inspectors simply because evolution is unquestioned.

Norway Killer Cultural Christian, Practical Darwinian

Initial news reports about mass murderer Anders Breivik, who slew over 90 civilians in his home country on July 23, described him as a “right-wing fundamentalist Christian.” Now that his 1500-page manifesto has been published, it is clear that any associations with Christianity were cultural and political, not personal. His prime motivation was to halt the Islamization of “Christian” Europe brought on by political correctness and multiculturalism. A review of his writings show him closer to secular science and the social Darwinists than to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Texas Press Perpetuates ID Myths

Some reporters refuse to listen. Advocates of intelligent design (ID) have clarified their definitions, their evidences, and their goals for years now, with numerous books, essays, web articles, papers and lectures, but the secular mainstream press continues to misrepresent their positions, and divert discussion from the issues to red herrings. A vote by the Texas School Board concerning supplementary materials to match science standards offered the latest example. The Associated Press story is filled with talking points and generalities; the Discovery Institute response is detailed and to the point, citing scientific journal references for support. Will intelligent design ever get a fair hearing in the mainstream media?

Science Can Be Wrong for Decades, Centuries

The history of science shows some wrong theories being accepted by leading scholars for long periods of time. Ptolemaic astronomy, unquestioned for over 1200 years, is a prime example. Not all examples are old, though. In modern times as well, scientists are finding that theories unquestioned for decades, even centuries, were wrong. That being so, what confidence can we have that today’s scientific beliefs will stand the test of time for the next decade or century? A recent spate of science articles shows some long-held theories being questioned – others being tossed overboard.

Can evolutionary theory explain terrorism?

In military strategy, it is vital to know what the enemy is up to. Can evolutionary theory help? An interdisciplinary team at the University of Miami got their heads together and appealed to an evolutionary notion called the “Red Queen” hypothesis, and claimed it provides a “Pattern in Escalations in Insurgent and Terrorist Activity” that is neutral regarding the good guys and the bad guys. It resembles, they argue, how pedators and prey evolve in nature. They offer their model as a way military planners can have the ability “to estimate not only the number of fatalities but how often attacks that result in fatalities will take place.” They applied their pattern prediction to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. How robust is this notion, and should evolutionary theory take credit for it?

NOMA Still Isn’t Working

Science journals and websites continue to act as if religion is a subcategory of the science department.  If Stephen Jay Gould thought that NOMA was a good idea to keep peace between science and religion (see 11/05/2006), nobody paid any attention.  Scientism has taken over the world. Teen religion:  In “Teens Maintain Their Religion,” Medical […]

Political Science 101: Doubt Scientific Claims

Science goes through a chain of messengers from data to consumer. In between are fallible scientists, who speak often in incomprehensible jargon and often only partially understand what they observe, but often wish to gain notoriety with a major discovery (or need to publish or perish). Next, the institutional press offices decide what is significant and try to digest the jargon to layman level. The predigested stories are then delivered to science reporters, who sometimes sensationalize the filtered stories to make a name for themselves. Finally, the media outlets, prone to peer biases, dress up the products to grab the eyes of readers of their newspapers, magazines, or web pages. How much of the real scientific data remains at the end of this game of Telephone? Sometimes the bias is clearly evident, but often the product is delivered with all the presumptive authority of science. Once in awhile, a reporter comes clean about the dirty work involved.

Humans Are Devolving

“We are all mutants,” proclaimed a headline on Science Daily. “First Direct Whole-Genome Measure of Human Mutation Predicts 60 New Mutations in Each of Us.” The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute press release reported 60 new mutations per individual, received from parents – a “striking value” the article characterized the “unexpected findings”.

Stem Cell News

Stem cells continue to be hot subjects for research. They are divided into two basic “political” parties: embryonic stem cells (ES), which raise ethical issues about tampering with human life, and adult stem cells (AS), found throughout the body, which have no ethical issues and show the most progress for therapy. The latter include the induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), coaxed from adult cells to recover the ability to differentiate into multiple tissue types. Even though AS is leading, some scientists are still demanding federal funding for ES.

A Little Knowledge Without Ethics

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. When is knowledge enough? And can a lot of knowledge be a dangerous thing, too? Whether little or much, knowledge without ethics empowers evil.

Embryonic Stem Cells Left in iPS Dust

A few years ago, scientists were clamoring for access to human embryos for stem cell research. Now, the discovery of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) from human skin and other adult tissues has sidetracked interest in embryonic stem cells. The momentum is clearly going with iPS. Is there any longer a need for embryonic stem cell research? (includes 9 bullet topics)

“Enlightenment” History of Science Being Rewritten

It’s a common myth that enlightenment atheists gave birth to the scientific era by casting off the darkness of the Christian middle ages and replacing magical arts like alchemy with the scientific experimental method.  Historians of science know better.  A couple of recent articles help set the record straight.     Alchemy has long had […]
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