Tuesday, September 30, 2008
This is the second installment in a series which reveals the evidence of an old earth. Click here to read the first installment.
Let us turn to one very simple reason the earth is old: Varves. A varve is a layer of sediment which is usually deposited in a lake. Two layers are deposited each year: a light layer in the summer, and a dark layer in the fall. This poses a problem for creationists, as over six million varves were deposited in the Green River Shale! Six Million divided by two is three million. So it took three million years to form this deposit. That's about 2,990,000 years too old for the Bible's estimate of a 10,000 year old earth. Most creationists will respond to this by saying that the varves could have been formed during Noah's flood. But the varves found at the Green River Shale are usually very thin and fine, whereas false varves produced by floods are thick and irregular. (See Geologist Glenn Morton's assessment of this). There are various other arguments creationists hurl against varves, all of which are disproven by Christian (!) Geologist Greg Neyman. For instance, creationists will point to fossils that transgress multiple varves. Yet they do not realize that in deep, anoxic water, the decay process slows down dramatically (click here to see a fascinating webpage on some well preserved "mummies" found in bogs!).
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Saturday, September 20, 2008
I did not know the answer to this, until now. Via ScienceDaily:
Until recently researchers say the story of the origin of agriculture was one of a relatively sudden appearance of plant cultivation in the Near East around 10,000 years ago spreading quickly into Europe and dovetailing conveniently with ideas about how quickly language and population genes spread from the Near East to Europe. Initially, genetics appeared to support this idea but now cracks are beginning to appear in the evidence underpinning that model
Now a team led by Dr Robin Allaby from the University of Warwick have developed a new mathematical model that shows how plant agriculture actually began much earlier than first thought, well before the Younger Dryas (the last “big freeze” with glacial conditions in the higher latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere). It also shows that useful gene types could have actually taken thousands of years to become stable.
Up till now researchers believed in a rapid establishment of efficient agriculture which came about as artificial selection was easily able to dominate natural plant selection, and, crucially, as a consequence they thought most crops came from a single location and single domestication event.
However recent archaeological evidence has already begun to undermine this model pushing back the date of the first appearance of plant agriculture. The best example of this being the archaeological site Ohalo II in Syria where more than 90,000 plant fragments from 23,000 years ago show that wild cereals were being gathered over 10,000 years earlier than previously thought, and before the last glacial maximum (18,000-15,000 years ago).
The field of Archaeobotany is also producing further evidence to undermine the quick development model. The tough rachis mutant is caused by a single recessive allele (one gene on a pair or group of genes) , and this mutant is easily identifiable in the archaeological specimens as a jagged scar on the chaff of the plant noting an abscission (shedding of a body part) as opposed to the smooth abscission scar associated with the wild type brittle rachis.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Stephen Jay Gould is famous for arguing that if we "replayed the tape of life" nothing even remotely similar to Homo Sapiens would emerge. He draws this conclusion from the infamous Cambrian explosion, in which many novel body plans were evolving. Some of the Cambrian fossils have an eerie other worldly look, and it is clear that if they had survived rather than Pikaia, the ancestor of all vertebrates, life on earth would be unimaginably different. Evolution is always contingent upon the step which precedes it, bulding upon and expanding what is already there. If this crucial and basic step towards vertebrate life were removed, it would follow that all the steps built upon it would cease to exist.
Critics have pointed out cases of convergent evolution and argued that if we did replay the tape of life a second time, much, though not all, would remain the same. This is wrong. Eyes, Wings, and Fins might still emerge, since they have emerged in all manner of lineages, even nonvertebrates. Yet take a look at the most famous example touted by the likes of Kenneth Miller and Daniel Dennett: The Marsupials. While it is true that striking examples of convergence exist between placental mammals and marsupials, the marsupial "mole", for instance, Stephen Jay Gould's main point remains unrebutted. The earliest mammals date to about 220 million years old, while Australia separated from Gondwana about 100 million years ago. Thus, mammals were divided geographically after 100 million years of evolution from their most primitive forms. The earliest steps in the history of placental and marsupial mammals were the same, and after they divided their evolution was (very roughly) similar. Contrast this to Stephen Jay Gould's argument that if the first step in the history of life was radically different, the steps following that would be even moreso.
Another objection to Gould's argument is that he assumes the success of the Cambrian groups as random. How do we know that there was a giant lottery going on? Perhaps it was not the luck of the draw, and there is a perfectly good reason Pikaia lived. This may be so, but consider this: If conditions were good enough for Pikaia's competitors to evolve and flourish for a time, need they be radically different for those competitors to have won the grand lottery? Secondly, it is all to easy to imagine a catastrophe, such as a landslide, wiping out most or all of the fragile vertebrate species.
Life as we know it is a glorious contingency.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Saturday, September 13, 2008
"For now, however, the cells are unable to do much of anything: '[t]he replication isn't wholly autonomous,' according to the article, and the team must use pre-existing fatty molecules and borrow from existing life to get the nucleic acids."
And yet we know that lipid membranes can and do form under prebiotic conditions. More importantly, the article states right afterward that scientists have come up with plausible ways for RNA to form under prebiotic conditions. It even gives a link to the peer reviewed paper.
AiG sums up with this (Their comments are in italics):
So, our conclusion on this research: evolutionary scientists are trying to intelligently design
Creationists always trot out this line as if it were something clever. Yes, intelligent scientists are involved, but they are working with materials that were on the early earth. They are simply trying to find out what conditions it takes to create the first cell. Nevertheless, whatever scientists come up with has to be something that could plausibly happen on the early earth.
(but as of yet haven’t succeeded) a self-replicating organism nowhere near as complex as actual (extant) life via chemicals and mechanisms that are not agreed upon
They already have created a self replicating organism, it simply does not satisfy a strict definition of life. (See this video). I found this comment from Jeffrey Bada to be rather odd, he said: "His hope is that he'll have a complete self-replicating system in his lab in the near future."
My impression, from reading the peer reviewed article, was that these protocells were able to self replicate. I think the issue is that the strands of nucleic acids used in the experiment were not made totally from scratch (One news report says, "Despite the success of his model protocell in synthesizing a genetic polymer, Szostak says more work is needed. For one thing, he says, he hasn't yet been able to create the original strand of genetic material-only copy it"). As for the chemicals and mechanisms, the article simply shows scientists saying that these experiments only show one way in which life could originate. Who knows? Perhaps it could originate in many ways. This is a very reasonable stance to take, and it does not mean that scientists have fundamental disagreements about the conditions of the early earth- only about the conditions which brought about life.
...in the hopes that it will somehow prove their by-faith hypotheses about how a less-complex-than-real-life organism could have, maybe, given rise to life as we know it (or not) through millions of years of accidental mutation. And—even though we will never know how it “really happened,” we should take this as proof that such origin of life stories are superior to the Bible’s clear account in Genesis?
Yes, we should take these experiments more seriously than the bronze age myths of the bible that were borrowed from other cultures. And what the hell is it that AiG expects from these experiments anyway? They want these scientists to just throw a bunch of chemicals together and make a kitten. Well, sorry, but scientists have made it clear from early on that whatever the first self replicating system was, it was much simpler than even the simplest life is today (See Dawkins, 1976). Even Charles Darwin understood that when he speculated that life began "in some warm little pond, with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity, etc. present, . . . a protein compound was chemically formed, ready to undergo still more complex changes."
Friday, September 12, 2008
A great deal of mystery surrounds how the anatomy of the first whales changed to propel them through the water. A key piece of that puzzle would be the discovery of when exactly the wide flukes on their powerful tails arose.
"The origin of flukes is one of the last steps in the transition from land to sea," explained vertebrate paleontologist Mark Uhen of the Alabama Museum of Natural History in Tuscaloosa.
To shed light on this mystery, Uhen analyzed new fossils that amateur bone hunters discovered exposed along riverbanks in Alabama and Mississippi. These bones once belonged to the ancient whale Georgiacetus, which swam along the Gulf Coast of North America roughly 40 million years ago, back when Florida was mostly submerged underwater. This creature reached some 12 feet in length and likely used its sharp teeth to dine on squid and fish.
The first whales known to possess flukes are close relatives of Georgiacetus that date back to 38 million years ago. But while only about 2 million years separate Georgiacetus from these other whales, Uhen now finds that Georgiacetus apparently did not possess flukes. The new 2-inch-long tail vertebra he analyzed — one of some 20 tail vertebrae the ancient whale had — is not flattened as the vertebrae near whales flukes are.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
You may learn about this child, his family, and his condition at this address:
(It requires you to register, but it is free and safe).
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Saturday, September 6, 2008
1) A theory is not a guess. It is a well tested natural explanation.
2) The fact of Evolution has no bearing on the issue of whether or not human life is 'sacred'. I think all human beings should be treated with dignity.
Should we teach flat earth 'theory' along with round earth theory too?
There is no such thing as a round earth theory. We can scientifically and mathematically prove that the Earth is oblate. Teaching creationism in public schools is immoral, illegal, and irresponsible. Intelligent Design Theory is not a religion. Teaching Genesis would be, however, ID theory is an alternative with its own scientific backing, and therefore belongs in the classroom.
It is irresponsible because we cannot teach future doctors and scientists such an unuseful and unscientific idea.
I would personally much rather have a doctor who believed in the sanctity of life than one who felt that survival of the fittest was a good alternative.
You would be wasting these children's time teaching them creationism when we could teach them the unifying idea of biology: Evolution.
Nobody is suggesting that we don't teach them evolution. It is also a viable theory and belongs in the classroom. I personally believe in a Creator, but that would not stop me discussing evolution. In fact I believed evolution unquestioningly for over 90% of my life. I still believe in micro-evolution [See next section]
This is something that actually has application: Estimating the odds of viri and bacterium evolving immunity to an antibiotic
Here I have to draw your attention to the difference between Micro-Evolution and Macro-Evolution. Micro-Evolution is where changes in genetic information causes change(s) in the animals characteristics. These characteristics can include things such as resistance to antibiotics and the colours of moths' wings. Micro-Evolution is proven fact. Macro-Evolution is still a theory, because we have not witnessed it happening, nor do we have sufficient evidence to prove that it ever has happened. If we had, there would be very few creationists, because we are not all ignorant.
If ID is to be taught in classrooms, they need to first win over a substantial percentage of biological scientists. This is the way all ideas, including evolution, have made their way into classrooms.They can do this by:
1) Demonstrating that their theory has more explanatory power than Evolution.
2) Generating falsifiable scientific predictions and subsequently verifying them.In both cases, they have failed. The predictions which ID makes have been falsified. For example, the contention that irreducibly complex systems cannot evolve:
Jonathan Wells even made a prediction based on ID that has now been falsified:
On the other hand, Darwin's predictions have been beautifully confirmed. Here is just one example: Charles Darwin predicted that since we are anatomically most similar to the great apes of Africa, it was most likely that we evolved in Africa*, and therefore intermediate fossils (between a small brained knuckle walking ape and homo sapiens) would be found in Africa. Sure enough, this prediction has been proven true.Here are some of the skulls which have been found:
* The simplest explanation is that the common ancestor of chimps, gorillas, and humans lived in Africa, and that some humans wondered off, rather than the common ancestor living somewhere else and the gorillas and chimps migrating to Africa. Feel free to drop by the blog again sometime, you are obviously intelligent and capable of civil discussion, which I always encourage here.
Friday, September 5, 2008
Via Science Daily:
"Scientists at Penn State have developed a new computational method that they say will help them to understand how life began on Earth. The team's method has the potential to trace the evolutionary histories of proteins all the way back to either cells or viruses, thus settling the debate once and for all over which of these life forms came first."
You know, I once voiced the opinion that viruses might have existed with very simple cells. I even went so far as to call them the "missing link" between self replicating molecules and life. It appears that we will know very soon whether I was right or wrong!
If you do not know, one of the current hypotheses is that viri originate as extremely mutated cells (according to one of my science teachers). I find that implausible for various reasons, and I think this idea will prove better.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
"Teach both. You know, don't be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both. And you know, I say this too as the daughter of a science teacher. Growing up with being so privileged and blessed to be given a lot of information on, on both sides of the subject -- creationism and evolution. It's been a healthy foundation for me. But don't be afraid of information and let kids debate both sides."
Should we teach flat earth 'theory' along with round earth theory too? I have refrained from posting about my political opinions up unto this point, but I now feel the urge to say that this woman does not belong in office. Teaching creationism in public schools is immoral, illegal, and irresponsible. It is immoral because creationism is not true and rests on major fallacies in thought and science. It is illegal because it violates separation of church and state. And it is irresponsible because we cannot teach future doctors and scientists such an unuseful and unscientific idea. You would be wasting these children's time teaching them creationism when we could teach them the unifying idea of biology: Evolution. This is something that actually has application: Estimating the odds of viri and bacterium evolving immunity to an antibiotic (or combination of antibiotics). What will the future scientists of America do with the "theory" of creationism? Look at the amount of sin going on to determine if God will create a new infectious disease?
Monday, September 1, 2008
1. The Ultimate Boeing 747. I discuss Richard Dawkins' central argument about why god is very improbable, and the objections to this argument.
2. Consciousness. I found that my original essay about consciousness was unclear, so I replaced it with a far more concise paper that I had originally written for a Psychology class.
I have also read and reviewed Antony Flew's book "There is a God". I have submitted it to Internet Infidels, so it may be published within about a week. If it is not, I will post it to my website anyway.
I am in the process of reading Neil Shubin's book "Your Inner Fish". Expect a review within two weeks.