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SETI and other Pointless Gimmicks

Astrobiologist Paul Davies sure knows how to ask interesting questions, and ruffle feathers in the process.  His new book about SETI, The Eerie Silence, reviewed by Leslie Mullen in Astrobiology Magazine, defaced some long-standing notions.  But are his suggestions any improvement?     Davies thinks the Voyager record was a “pointless gimmick.”  He thinks that […]

Life, an Elegantly Simple Mistake

The ribosome is a complex molecular machine made up of multiple protein and RNA parts.  Last year, winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (see 10/10/2009) were praised for elucidating the structure and activity of ribosomes.  News stories described “the whole complicated process of transcription initiation, an operation that is of crucial importance in all […]

Evolution as “Scientific Literacy” Dropped by NSB; Sets Off Firestorm

Can you be called scientifically literate if you deny that humans evolved from lower animals?  What if you deny the universe began with an explosion?  American students have typically scored low on those questions, leading to charges that they are scientifically illiterate compared to other countries in Europe and Asia.  But now, the National Science […]

Another Fossil “Human Ancestor” Claimed

Meet Australopithecus sediba – or is it Homo something?  Scientists are arguing over how to classify new fossils found in a cave at Malapa, South Africa.  Announced today in Science,1 the fossils, alleged to be just under 2 million years old, are producing a strange mixture of hopeful headlines and cautionary counsels from experts.   […]

Smelling Evolution in Bird Genes

The zebra finch genome has been sequenced; it revealed some surprises.  In the chicken, only 70 of the 500 genes encoding smell receptors produce active proteins.  In the zebra finch, 200 do.  What does this mean?  According to a press release from Weizmann Wonder Wander at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel, it means Darwin […]

Human Genome “Infinitely More Complex” Than Expected

Ten years after the Human Genome Project was completed, now we know: biology is “orders of magnitude” more complicated than scientists expected.  So wrote Erika Check Hayden in Nature News March 31 and in the April 1 issue of Nature.1     An air of daunting complexity haunts the article.  The Human Genome Project was […]

Snakes Alive!  An Evolutionary Tale

Blind snakes that look like worms: they rule the world.  They’re everywhere.  Where did they come from?  “Blindsnakes are not very pretty, are rarely noticed, and are often mistaken for earthworms,” admits Blair Hedges, professor of biology at Penn State University.  “Nonetheless, they tell a very interesting evolutionary story.”  So reported Science Daily.  National Geographic […]

Tree of Life – or of Evil Knowledge?

Evolutionary trees are now widely available in a web database.  Scientists can upload and download huge amounts of information on evolutionary relationships of plants, animals and protists.  But is this a case of scientific progress, or of mass deception?     You can go to TreeBase.org and find a treasure trove of phylogenetic information.  The […]

Can Morality Be Darwinized?

There’s a cottage industry within the Darwin empire that tries to explain morality in terms of natural selection.  Hardly a week passes without some new paper trying to explain why humans reward moral behavior and punish immoral behavior.  Some try to do it by finding morality in animals, as if to portray a continuity in […]

Everything You Know About Evolution Is Wrong (Again)

There’s a genre of science news stories characterized by pointing out things Darwin got wrong.  It’s not creationists that do this – these are secular reporters and evolutionary biologists.  They seem to try to one-up Darwin by proposing new theories that do evolution better.  They usually don’t go far enough to jettison Darwin completely, but […]

“Synthetic Evolution” – Is it Really Intelligent Design?

Some Cambridge scientists engineered a four-character genetic code and made some proteins with it.  They guided the process at every step, but claim that they “evolved” this code.  Is that a fair use of language?  This strange admixture of concepts is found in today’s issue of Nature.1  The confusion began right in the title: “Encoding […]

What Good Is Natural Selection without Progress?

Three papers recently claim to have seen natural selection.  None of them, however, identified a functional advantage that would have tied changes to novel benefits that could improve a species.  Yeast:  “New Type of Genetic Variation Could Strengthen Natural Selection,” trumpeted a headline in Science Daily.  It was about a study of two varieties of […]

Life Crams Stuff on the Long Road

This quote from UC Berkeley wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week: In the long evolutionary road from bacteria to humans, a major milestone occurred some 1.5 billion years ago when microbes started building closets for all their stuff, storing DNA inside a nucleus, for example, or cramming all the energy machinery inside mitochondria. Any […]

Dinosaur Evolution Is Relative

The science news media are all reporting that the “oldest known dinosaur relative” has been found.  The artist reconstructions of Asilisaurus kongwe, found in middle Triassic layers in Tanzania, make the creature look quite dinosaurian; at least it was dog-sized and walked on thick legs under its body like its famous brethren did.  Its early […]

Atheism in a Test Tube

Conflicting views on atheism by scientists show that deducing the intellectual status of atheism is not an exact science.  Are such questions even approachable by the scientific method?  What conclusions could be drawn?     National Geographic reported Kanazawa’s theory that liberals and atheists are smarter (02/27/2010) without much criticism.  Reporter Maggie Koerth-Baker only said […]
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