Friday, March 17, 2006

Back to the Golf Course.



(Previous Post)

Some readers did not "get" my golf course analogy. I find it helpful to clarify my thinking so I will have another go to explain it.....









Imagine a 2-dimensional protein gel for a particular protein.

Imagine that a change in its amino acid sequence will change it’s position on the gel.



Thus for a 150 amino acid protein there are 20^150 positions spread out to cover a wide area on the gel.

Then imagine for each variant of that protein you can measure its “selective advantage” for a particular organism.

Then imagine you can plot these selective advantages on the 2-Dimensional gel to give a “contour” map of the protein’s functionality.



Then imagine that the current structure and function of the protein is the hole in a golf course and the contour map that you have is the terrain of the golf course with the selective advantages going downwards towards the hole.

As I said in this post the two models of protein function origin look for different contour maps for protein functionality.

The RMNS model would hope to find a large catchment area for protein functionality. The ID model would hope to find a sharp distinction between function and no function with relatively few variants having a function.

To understand the IC argument you have to imagine several of these golf courses being played independently with the requirement that the protein golf ball on each golf course arrives in its respective hole at the same time.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The faith of the methodological naturalist.


The basic articles of faith for a methodological naturalist go something like this:

We have found excellent naturalistic explanations for many phenomenon in nature.

Therefore

we believe every phenomenon in nature will have a naturalistic explanation.

Therefore

we make it a strict rule that science is exclusively the study of possible naturalistic explanations for what can be observed in the universe.

Science is not the search for the truth about the origin, operation and destiny of the universe it is limited exclusively to purely naturalistic explanations of the origin, operation and destiny of the universe.

The methodological naturalist will choose a naturalistic explanation over a meta-nature explanation to be taught as the truth in science lessons even if it is not actually true.

Thus for a methodological naturalist it is perfectly reasonable possibility that in science lessons it will become necessary to teach children what is in fact not true and what is in fact known to be untrue for the sake of meeting the methodological naturalism criteria laid out by the grand assembly of the interplanetary science council.

The real truth can only be taught in a new subject called meta-science lessons and it is a perfectly reasonable possibility in the future for the syllabus in these lessons to contradict the science syllabus and for the meta-science lessons to be teaching the truth and the science lessons to be teaching what is known to be wrong.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A sacred cow?

Link to BBC Report

Paranoia concerning the possibility of giving any credibility to any form of creationism has reached such a pitch that providing accurate data concerning the history of a scientific controversy is treated with outraged hysteria.

The very idea that some excellent palaeontologists used to interpret the fossil record in a radically different way to the way palaeontologists do today is seen as capitulating to the enemy.

If anything indicates the status of the theory of evolution as a sacred cow for a materialistic community then this does!

If we are so afraid to teach children the truth about a particular piece of the history of science that we start seeing red when someone suggests it then there is something extraordinarily interesting going on… at least to my mind.

See the Bigglesworth principle!
The storm has erupted because the following words are in the OCR gateway to Science syllabus:

"explain that the fossil record has been interpreted differently over time (e.g. creationist interpretation)".

This is in the context of the National Curriculum statement:
"Students should be taught how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence (for example Darwin's theory of evolution)."
And students should consider:
"ways in which scientific work may be affected by the context in which it takes place (for example, social, historical, moral, spiritual), and how these contexts may affect whether or not ideas are accepted."

James Williams, science course leader at Sussex University's school of education
"This opens a legitimate gate for the inclusion of creationism or intelligent design in science classes as if they were legitimate theories on a par with evolution fact and theory.
"I'm happy for religious theories to be considered in religious education, but not in science where consideration could lead to a false verification of their status as being equal to scientific theories."


The debate in the UK was also stirred up by the answer that Jacqui Smith gave to Keith Vaz’s question on 27th February appearing to open the gateway to the presentation of creationism and intelligent design in science in the context of scientific controversies. (Here)

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what her policy is on the
teaching of creationism as a subject in schools; and if she will make a statement. [49613]

Jacqui Smith: Neither creationism nor intelligent design is taught as a subject in schools. The national curriculum programme of study for science at key stage 4 covers evolution. It sets out that pupils should be taught "that the fossil record is evidence for evolution" and also "how variation and selection may lead to evolution or extinction". Pupils should however be taught about "how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence". Also, the biblical view of creation can be taught in RE lessons, where pupils are taught to consider opposing theories and come to their own, reasoned conclusions. Therefore, although creationism and intelligent design are not part of the national curriculum, they could be covered in these contexts.

The relevant document from OCR is here.
The OCR biology specification:
At the standard level a research activity is suggested:
“Research to find out about the differentinterpretations of the fossil record.”

At the higher level students should be able to:
"explain that the fossil record has been interpreted differently over time (e.g. creationist interpretation)".

This is in the context of a syllabus that is positively glowing in its support for evolution!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Towards the misty mountains....

The road goes ever on and on...