Monday, April 24, 2006

Important New Transitional Fossil.

I unearthed this important specimen on my desktop last week. It looks like an important find to me and I suspect it could revolutionize the whole field of snail evolution:

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Secularism one religious viewpoint? (Off topic)

This post originated when I called atheism a "religious" viewpoint in a comment and caused another commenter to laugh. I am trying to explain why atheism is best viewed as a "religion" in the sense of a "world and life view" and that secularism is merely a comfortable wrapper for an atheistic state... a pretended religious neutrality... a secular platform upon which religions dances and generally make themselves look silly:

Another way of looking at it is that secularism is the "political wing" of the atheistic fundamentalists who are seeking to bring an end to any religious influence on the state.

On a level playing field there should be no default assumption of secularity:

Friday, April 14, 2006

Atheism/secularism a religion. (Off topic)

My concern regarding this point is a serious one.

I may be wrong of course but my conviction is that atheism/secularism is very "sneaky". Atheism portrays all religions as options on a non-religious background.

Atheism becomes then the only religion that is entirely non-religious and gets the position of power by default.

All religions are excluded from civil power by the default assumption that states have to be secular or they end up as one religion fighting with another.

By seeking to present itself as the non-religious default position atheism swipes all the power. It is a brilliant piece of intellectual and cultural manouvering by atheists which has resulted in a dominant atheistic position being assumed as the only basis for civil and educational endeavour at the state level.

It is simply a brilliant but deceptive device to present secularism as if it were the default position for civil government to avoid religious strife.

Defining atheism as outside of religion and saying that a state MUST be secular is simply the same as saying the only states that have a right to exist are secular ones. Which is ruling that atheism rules without a struggle….a conclusion that I am unwilling to concede… not surprisingly!

It is much more accurate (in my view) to think of atheism/secularism as a religion or world view which needs to compete on the same intellectual basis as all the other religions/worldviews. There is no non-religious neutral level playing field… to imagine such a thing is simply to concede the field to the atheists.


Three preliminary thoughts about this story....

1. Generally mobile DNA elements are very strange things and have few good reviews available freely on the internet. We seem to know rather little about their origin and function.

2. Given its importance in the evolution debate the nylonase story has been poorly served with regard to review articles on the web (unless I have missed all the good ones). The original papers are not very clearly written. I would have expected a really good review of the primary literature somewhere... if you know such a review I would be very grateful to have it.

3. Maybe it is just me ...but it is a very weird story. The idea that a block of multiple repeats should code an enzyme just waiting to line up with a promoter by means of a frameshift mutation for its expression is rather strange to me and makes me want to do experiments asking how many different types of multiple repeats will produce a viable enzyme for this reaction. The author of the paper proposing this mechanism for brand new enzyme function production expresses his surprise that so rapid a sequence divergence could occur between the two variants of the enzyme 11.35% amino acid sequence divergence:

"so extensive an amino acid sequence divergence is not expected to occur in so short a time span- ie 40 years or thereabout."

Steve Jones and the moral Imperative. (Off topic)

Another rather profound point was raised by Steve Jones talk again in the question and answer session. It was his response to a rather garbled question about the role of intelligence in evolution.

His point was that human beings are able to step outside of evolution by virtue of their intelligence.

He mentions an observation for which there is good evidence:

Male rapists father more children than male non-rapists.

He agrees that based on the logic of Darwinian evolution rape is a “good” way to behave. He says that a naïve socio-biologist will explain the rapist’s behaviour in this way.

He then says that we invoke some other logic which provides a moral imperative…to get “Thou shalt not rape” bypassing the logic of evolution which says “Thou shalt rape.”

He says this (being evolutionarily successful by rape) is “entirely unacceptable anyway.” His argument is that “consciousness” provides the rule of what you should and should not do.

Presumably it is purely a matter of social convention that provides the “Thou shalt not rape” and in a society where rape is normal then we should have no problem with rape. Is a society which sees rape as “bad” better than a society that sees rape as normal…on what scale of values are we to judge other than simple majority vote or some kind of “moral feeling.”

It is this moral feeling or conscience or consciousness that I am interested in. Is it merely an accident of evolution in which case is it really authoritative? Are guilt feelings solely socially and educationally induced? If a society establishes entirely new guilt feelings can they be considered better or worse?

I suppose I am interested in how an atheistic gets to universal moral values.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Steve Jones’ Lecture.

Steve Jones argues that the evidence presented in Darwin’s Origin of Species provides a case which is “difficult to deny.” Thus after reading the Origin of Species it is no longer possible to be both a scientist and a creationist.

He focused on the changes in the AIDS virus and the changes in the gene frequencies of certain kinds of receptors for HIV as a clear demonstration of evolution by natural selection.

He then looked at the similarities and differences between the chimp and the human genome and the differences in gene expression in different tissues between chimps and humans.

According to Steve it is the origin of language that makes us human and we ourselves are the only intelligent designers not someone else up in the sky!

The Wedge Strategy
In the question section at the end there was a question about Creationism and its increase in the UK and whether we should be worried about it. This (to me) produced the most interesting responses from Steve Jones.

His explanation of the increase of creationism was that it has its roots in the reassertion of Islamic identity of muslim groups in the UK with a sort of copy cat effect on Christians. (I think this is wrong)

He sees creationism as a deliberate choice to be ignorant and therefore as expressing a choice for irrationality which is dangerous.

He blames the establishment of faith schools for this and criticies the Blair government for promoting faith schools in the UK.

The wedge strategy he says is a strategy to change society in the US and is very dangerous. The thin end of the wedge is to get creationism into schools. This will in time produce a fundamentalist society which will be a tremendous improvement and we can get back to burning witches and things again.

Steve showed little understanding of what creationism is and little understanding of its history. Given that the title of the talk was “Why creationism is wrong and Evolutionism is right” it was a disappointing talk. Steve is a gifted communicator and an able presenter but this talk simply does not deal with the issues that need to be dealt with. It showed no understanding of the real differences between the intellectual structure of intelligent design and historic creationism and really did not deal with the controversy at all.

It is the issue of the origin of life and the origin of irreducible biological complexity that is the interesting area in this debate. Continually presenting evidence for micro-evolution and homology does not really move us further forward as to whether random change is a sufficient explanation for biological complexity.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Royal Society Statement and Live Webcast tonight.

The Royal Society, has today published a statement on ID:

This evening Prof Steve Jones will give a lecture at the Royal Society, which will be broadcast live on the web:

Next live Webcast: Why creationism is wrong and evolution is right
Webcast commences: 1730GMT / 1830BST Tuesday 11th April
Intro:Many biologists are worried by a recent and unexpected return of an argument based on belief by the certainty, untestable and unsupported by evidence, that life did not evolve but appeared by supernatural means. Worldwide, more people believe in creationism than in evolution. Why do no biologists agree? Steve Jones will talk about what evolution is, about new evidence that men and chimps are close relatives and about how we are, nevertheless, unique and why creationism does more harm to religion than it does to science.

The BBC news website had an article here on the statement.

Notice the implication of the paragraph...if you are a creationist (presumably of any sort!) you cannot be a biologist. If you do not believe that life evolved by natural means you are not and cannot be a biologist!

This is the sort of statement that indicates that Darwin's defenders in the UK are seriously behind the debate and have not understood the significance of the position of the Intelligent Design movement.

I am sure that this Royal Society statement would get a sharp rap on the knuckles from the folks from the NCSE in the US!

The sound of silence.

I am not sure what Paul Simon is on about really but....(any explanations gratefully recieved!)

If you have come here looking for new posts....I apologise. I have been rather busy and sometimes I just feel the need to have a break from writing posts and reading comments! I have been following the Pianka affair with interest but I wanted to wait for a full transcript of the Texas Academy of Science speech before commenting. I have also been reading some of the papers regarding Nylonase.