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GOP Veep candidate Sarah Palin's belief in creationism brings the evolution of a crank's outlook into an asset in US public life into plain view. It's simply the rock-like belief that if science isn't convenient to a very personal value or notion, then it constitutes an attack on such and is to be set aside. Kevin Phillips, a …

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re: @Yirral goin' ta hell

PS how does a computer manufacturer prove god?

Please. Demonstrate the proof of God's existence.

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@NT

>Is that the long-deceased Watchmaker Argument you're trying to resurrect there?<

No, actually it isn't dead, despite (because of?) the efforts of Dawkins and his ilk.

>Still, their argument inevitably leads to the point that, if God (the implied or stated creator of humans) is more complex still, then God, too, must have had a creator<

No, God does not require a maker - because He has always been and always will be - He is outside of time. God is the source of all things and without beginning and therefore does not require a cause.

>And if God can be an uncaused effect then so, in principle, could the universe itself <

Could, were it not for the evidence that it is running down - evidence that it once had a begining and will have an end.

Martin

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@Speciation is a result of evolution.

Mark

Nope, speciation does not even require Evolution since it can occur with the existing variability in the genome.

Martin

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@Junk DNA

Mark

>Nope. If it were, why is there so much junk DNA?<

Junk DNA was so called because it was not known what it was for. Pretty poor science, if you ask me, to call something junk if you don't know what it is for. Incidentally, purpose is being found for the 'junk'

>If we aren't evolved from apes why do we have one less DNA strand and the one we have different is the same as two from chimps fused together AND has telomeres (which occur only at the ends of DNA stretches) in the middle.<

Have you noticed, there is some similarity between chimps and men? Could be something to do with it. There are a number of differences that are conveniently not included in the calculations of human/chimp similarity, among them that human telomeres are about the length of those in chimps. Like you, the scientists who claim this are dedicated followers of Evolution and find the evidence to back up their belief.

Martin

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@Yirall talking out your arse

So you're saying that we are similar to apes not because we have a common ancestor but because the omnipotent God was a lazy bugger?

">And if God can be an uncaused effect then so, in principle, could the universe itself <

Could, were it not for the evidence that it is running down - evidence that it once had a begining and will have an end."

Take a shit, your throat's full. WFT??? How does that do ANYTHING to counter the quote you responded to? To quote from B5: all answers are replies but not all replies are answers. This was a reply that was not an answer.

God doesn't exist. Proof? Because I lost a sock three months ago.

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Boffin

The chimp's extra chromosome (@@Junk DNA )

Martin Yirrell posted on Friday 3rd October 2008 17:39 GMT, in reply to Mark:

<quote>

>Nope. If it were, why is there so much junk DNA?<

Junk DNA was so called because it was not known what it was for. Pretty poor science, if you ask me, to call something junk if you don't know what it is for. Incidentally, purpose is being found for the 'junk'

<unquote>

Some sections of the human genome whose purpose was originally unknown are now turning out to have some subtle effects on the development of the individual, but a lot remains that has no obvious purpose. Also, it appears that some of this originated from encounters with retroviruses way back in the evolutionary past. The sources of apparently "pointless" DNA are under investigation. This is not "poor science". There are still unanswered questions, and scientists are attempting to answer them scientifically, instead of invoking "God" to explain all the gaps in our knowledge.

The "God of the gaps" argument is silly and self-defeating. If "God" is assumed to take action only where we do not YET understand a physical, chemical, or biological process, then that "God" is a miserable and inadequate thing, destined to change and shrink as gaps in knowledge are filled.

<quote>

>If we aren't evolved from apes why do we have one less DNA strand and the one we have different is the same as two from chimps fused together AND has telomeres (which occur only at the ends of DNA stretches) in the middle.<

Have you noticed, there is some similarity between chimps and men? Could be something to do with it. There are a number of differences that are conveniently not included in the calculations of human/chimp similarity, among them that human telomeres are about the length of those in chimps. Like you, the scientists who claim this are dedicated followers of Evolution and find the evidence to back up their belief.

<unquote>

To summarise the scientific method VERY briefly, one devises a hypothesis to explain an observation. From the hypothesis, one deduces a prediction that can be tested by further observation. A hypothesis must be (in principle) testable by observation and so open to the possibility of being falsified, otherwise it does not count as a scientific hypothesis. If the prediction turns out to be correct (within the limits of experimental error, etc., etc.) then the hypothesis is confirmed. It is important to note a couple of points here:

a) The prediction does not necessarily concern the outcome of a future event. In many cases, it will concern the truth or falsity of a statement about an existing state of affairs which can be checked by observation. (The life cycles of stars of different types have been determined from predictions based on quantum physics and astronomical observation of the present state of the skies. We cannot watch a sample of stars for billions of years to see how they develop over time, but we can still check the predictions scientifically. See "Stardust" by John Gribben.)

b) The fact that a hypothesis has been confirmed does not mean that it has been "proved", in the sense of being true beyond all possible doubt. A better hypothesis may explain the observations more accurately (e.g., Einstein improved on Newton), or improved technology might make possible tests that were previously impractical, and these might falsify the hypothesis despite its earlier apparent confirmation.

c) Despite b), a hypothesis (or, rather, a set of mutually suporting hypotheses) that has stood up under repeated independent tests over time is regarded as an established theory. It is the closest we can get to "the truth" (at least for the time being) and denial of it in the face of evidence is irrational. The use of the word "theory" (as in "heliocentric theory") does not imply that it is dubious or tentative.

In the case of the chimp's extra chromosome:

1. Observation to be explained: A human being has 23 pairs of chromosomes, the chimpanzee has 24 pairs.

2. Hypothesis: After the separation of the chimp and human lines, two pairs of chromosomes in the human line combined with one another.

3. Prediction: Evidence of this early mutation will be visible, in that one of the human chromosomes should look like two chimp chromosomes "stuck together".

4. Further observations: Human chromosome 2 has the same pattern of bands that is found if we put chimp chromosomes 2p and 2q together end-to-end. (Each chromosome has a pattern of bands that is unique to it.) Telomere sequences (which normally occur only at the end of a DNA strand) are found in the middle of human chromosome 2. The sequence of genes in human chromosome 2 above the "join" is the same as that in chimp 2p, and below the join, the sequence is the same as that in chimp chromosome 2q.

5. Conclusion: Hypothesis in 2 above is accepted.

(There are many sources of such scientific information. One web site that I found just now with a Google search explains it rather well: http://basketofpuppies-billy.blogspot.com/2008/05/creationists-and-missing-chromosomes.html)

Note that, without a confirmed hypothesis to explain the different numbers of chromosomes in chimps and humans, the theory of chimp and human descent from a common ancestor could be called into question. (This little investigation was done within the context of the wider theory.)

You state that "there is some similarity between chimps and men". Of course there is. The scientific explanation for this is that it is due to the close similarities of their genomes, which arise from their having had a common ancestor some few millions of years ago.

You state that: "There are a number of differences that are conveniently not included in the calculations of human/chimp similarity, among them that human telomeres are about the length of those in chimps." Telomeres have the same function and a similar structure in all species. Your statement is correct, but totally irrelevant to any argument against chimps and humans having shared a common ancestor.

You end by stating: "Like you, the scientists who claim this are dedicated followers of Evolution and find the evidence to back up their belief." Are you seriously suggesting that the scientists who carried out this investigation reported "evidence" that is not there? Or that there is other evidence that contradicts the "joined chromosome" hypothesis that they suppressed or ignored? Any such attempt at deception would be discovered eventually, so would be pointless.

Science is based on evidence, and if its theories are contradicted by evidence, they are abandoned or changed. The case of the "missing chromosome", described above, is an example of the theory of human evolution being tested against evidence, showing that it is falsifiable (and hence a scientific theory, rather than an article of blind faith). The fact that it has passed all such tests is good reason to believe that it is true. It is also consistent with everything else that we know about chimp and human biology and explains much that cannot easily be explained otherwise.

To satirise your own statement:

Like you, the creationists who deny this are dedicated followers of Superstition, and will cling to their baseless belief in the teeth of any objective evidence to the contrary that is shown to them.

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Boffin

@@MRSA has evolved, along with other stuff

Martin Yirrell posted Thursday 2nd October 2008 17:43 GMT, in response to Peter Mellor:

<quote>

>I haven't the faintest idea what you mean by "loss of information",<

Genetic material is effectively information on the variable features of the form of life encoded in a highly efficient manner. Mutation is the result of damage to the material and is the loss of genetic information.

<unquote>

The genetic code represented in DNA defines the form of life (phenotype), including its "variable features". If the genome changes, then the expressed phenotypes changes also (generally speaking). The encoding is NOT done in a "highly efficient" manner, as several commentators have remarked. You have to define "efficient". (Human-designed codes require "redundant" bits of information in order to detect or correct errors. Does the inclusion of "redundant" bits render these codes "inefficient"?) There is now good evidence (see earlier postings) that the genomes of most species are inefficient, and include large quantities of "junk" which no longer have any discernible effect upon the phenotype.

Mutation can be due to damage (e.g., by radiation), or to imperfect copying of DNA during cell division (since no copying process can be guaranteed to be totally error-free).

Over millions of years, the DNA molecules in the cells of living organisms have accumulated information, rather than lost it, overall. They may have lost some information, but this has been replaced by a greater amount of different information.

Although many mutations are fatal for the organism (the resulting phenotype), a few are either neutral or beneficial (i.e., they do not impair, or improve, the probability that the organism will survive long enough to transmit its genes to the next generation).

<quote>

>Note: "It has EVOLVED ..."<

No, actually it hasn't evolved, it is "a resistant variation of the common bacterium Staphylococcus aureus".

Just as people vary, so bacterium vary. Some people have genetic illnesses, some people have red hair, it is not evolution it is variation.

<unquote>

The existence of a "resistant variation" is the basis for the evolution of a resistant strain compared to the original non-resistant strain. This is the definition of "evolution". Variation between individual bacteria (in this case, being more resistant to, or less resistant to, being killed by methicillin) is acted upon by natural selection so as to favour the survival and reproduction of the more resistant individuals. In the presence of methicillin, the more resistant strain will more probably survive and produce offspring.

The *population* evolves (not the individual bacteria), as its gene pool is shifted by natural selection to include more copies of a "successful" gene and fewer copies of the related "unsuccessful" gene.

[BTW: The plural of "bacterium" is "bacteria". The plural may be used to denote many individuals of a single species or several different species.]

<quote>

>MRSA is a classic example of evolution happening right under our noses. Antibiotics became widely used from the 1940s on. MRSA evolved its resistance in the 1990s (and is not the first species of bacterium to have evolved resistance to at least some antibiotics).<

Now I'm not sure about MRSA but I do know that bacteria resistant to modern antibiotics were found in the frozen corpses of members of an ill fated polar exploration. Selection occurs without Evolution occurring.

<unquote>

I would like to see the reference for the polar explorers.

Your statement "Selection occurs without Evolution occurring." is the totally wrong conclusion to draw here. What has most likely occurred, is *mutation* without *selection*, and hence without *evolution*. Natural selection drives the direction of evolution, acting upon existing genetic variation within the evolving populations.

The fact that bacteria mutated to be resistant to certain antibiotics before these were widely used as medicines, is not surprising.

Consider that bacteria and fungi have evolved together for millennia competing for the same food sources. One trick evolved by certain strains of fungi was to excrete substances (eventually named "antibiotics") which were toxic to bacteria. In response, certain strains of bacteria evolved a resistance to these toxins. This is almost identical to the familiar evolutionary "arms race" between predators and prey.

Long before Alexander Fleming noticed the blank patches in his culture dishes, and we began to splash antibiotics all over the environment, strains of bacteria that were resistant to any given fungal secretions must have arisen naturally.

It is the ubiquitous presence of certain antibiotics in the environment (or at least, some environments) that drives the evolution of resistant strains: whole populations of individual bacteria, each one of which carries the genes to enable it to survive the toxins. This ubiquitous presence has only come about with mankind's intervention. We had a magic bullet and we shot ourselves in the foot with it!

<quote>

>Speciation arises from evolution<

No, speciation is quite different from Evolution and occurs when variation arises from the selection of information already existing in the genome. It is noteworthy that domestic dogs are considered one species despite a range of variation that, had it occurred naturally, would have resulted in a number of 'species'. Evolution, on the other hand requires the generation of new genetic features that did not previously exist - limbs for example from a form without limbs. Evolution has never been observed.

<unquote>

To deal with your last point first: evolution has been observed wherever living species have been observed. It occurs everywhere and at all times. The fact that it is (usually) a slow process may conceal its occurrence from us, unless we know what to look for. In some cases, we can only infer what has occurred in the past from indirect evidence (e.g., the fossil record) after the changes have occurred. The evidence is still real, however.

I have read "young Earth" creationists trying to argue that we cannot use radiometric dating based on long-lived isotopes, since we have not had time to measure their half-lives! These people cannot get their brains around the method by which a half-life of many thousands of years can be estimated by accurately measuring the decay of a sample over a few months.

The fact that evolution occurs (usually) slowly, by imperceptible increments, poses a similar problem. In particular, the emergence of separate species takes a long time, as does the "generation of new genetic features that did not previously exist". Limbs, eyes, and brains have arisen that did not previously exist, but natural selection takes millennia to do it, acting upon tiny variations between individuals, that are the expression of minor differences between their genomes, resulting in turn from random mutations. (See "Your Inner Fish" by Neil Shubin, to see how the anatomy of the human limb can be traced back to that of our watery ancestors.)

Speciation is the name given to a wide divergence between genetically separated populations. When the difference between them is such that they can't easily interbreed, we say that we have two different species, but the label is a man-made designation. There are countless cases that fall into a grey area, where there is an argument over whether two sub-species are variants of a single species, or separate species?

Appearances can be deceptive. Two species may look similar, but be unrelated. Sharks and dolphins have striking similarities of body shape, but one is a fish, the other a mammal. This can result from "convergent evolution". Conversely, some animals may appear totally different, but be close cousins. The hyrax (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyrax) is an animal the size of a large rabbit, but is thought to be fairly closely related to the elephant.

The classification system used by Linnaeus was based upon observable features. It is now being substantially revised in the light of modern genetics. (This knowledge was not available to Linnaeus or Darwin, but it is now totally accepted by scientists that genetic relatedness is the only sure basis of classification of species.)

Domestic dogs are not *regarded* as the same species; by the criterion of genetic relatedness they ARE the same species. The differences in appearance show how rapidly artificial (as opposed to natural) selection can produce changes, but all breeds are descended from the grey wolf (or a common ancestor with the wolf that was around when mankind began to domesticate them). A Yorkshire terrier can interbreed with a great dane: the problem lies in the logistics, not in the genetics! This is one example of appearances being deceptive.

Your statement that: "... speciation is quite different from Evolution and occurs when variation arises from the selection of information already existing in the genome." is completely false. You seem to be implying that different species have the same genome, which is nonsense. We know that different species have different genomes, and the greater the differences between the phenotypes, the more differences there are between the genomes.

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@Martin Yirrel

er, evolution has been observed.

http://myxo.css.msu.edu/lenski/pdf/2008,%20PNAS,%20Blount%20et%20al.pdf

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Flame

Citations needed

"Have you noticed, there is some similarity between chimps and men?"

No, can't say that I have! Interestingly, this line of "reasoning" is a classic of the school of "Ignorant Design".

"There are a number of differences that are conveniently not included in the calculations of human/chimp similarity, among them that human telomeres are about the length of those in chimps."

Stick the end of the above sentence into Google and you get, amongst other things, an "Answers in Genesis" article and the paper they cite. Amusingly, neither of these agree with what the above sentence says. But what are we to deduce from the prophetic message of the Yirrell Bible on this? I anticipate a punchline from the school of "Ignorant Design".

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@Citations needed

>Stick the end of the above sentence into Google and you get, amongst other things, an "Answers in Genesis" article and the paper they cite. Amusingly, neither of these agree with what the above sentence says.<

It must be nice to be so totally cushioned in your beliefs - personally I need to know answers. As I've already posted, I mistyped - you can read my correction above.

Martin

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@Andy Jones

Andy

They remained Escherichia coli. Although the authors use the word Evolution what they are writing about is variation not Evolution.

Martin

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The chimp's extra chromosome (@@Junk DNA )

Peter

You don’t address my point, that in a ‘god of the gaps’ way scientists assumed that because they didn’t know what parts of the genome for they, based on their evolutionary preconceptions, assumed they were ‘junk’ left over from evolutionary history. It would have been more scientific to assign them to “we don’t know yet what they are for”. In the same way, the concept of vestigial organs was invented, resulting in around 100 organs being so described. All of these organ have now identified purpose.

>The "God of the gaps" argument is silly and self-defeating.<

So why use the “god of the gaps” argument? I certainly don’t.

Wouldn’t it be nice if scientists actual used the scientific method as you describe it. I fact they don’t. Scientists come to their work, like anyone else, with preconceptions, they expect the world to work in so and so fashion. Scientists who believe in Evolution approach their work with that belief. If the experiment that they carry out does not give the result they expect they can do a number of things, reject the result, redefine the result in evolutionary terms, adjust the experiment so it gives the result expected. Any result that is published that cast doubt on Evolution is treated this way. Remember the discovery of haemoglobin in dinosaur bones? What a fuss! That is why, when Michael Reiss was misquoted, members of the Royal Society were up in arms against him.

Your story about how the science relating to chimp and human genetic similarity is a nice fiction. Actually what probably happened is that the scientists sat down with the information and trawled through it until they came up with some evidence. Incidentally, I mistyped, humans have telomeres about half the length of chimpanzees and other apes. Strange that.

Martin

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Alien

@Yirrel all missing the point

Martin says that God done it and that's ALL THE PROOF YOU NEED!

Martin, it's been proven in moths too. These insects could not interbreed.

All you say is "That's not the evolution I'm talking about!!!".

Well prove God done it.

God doesn't exist.

I stubbed my toe today.

Proven.

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Gates Horns

@Yirrel all missing the point

You say you need the proof.

Well where is the proof for God. YOUR God, not the aztec one, or the hindu one or the CoS one. YOURS.

You don't want the proof because you want to hug your misconceptions to your breast.

Unfortunately, you'll never know you're wrong because when you die, there's no "you" left. Just like when you stop whisking an egg, there's no "soul of whisking" that moves on elsewhere.

You are a sad and pathetic individual.

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@Martin Yirrell

"They [the bacteria] have since evolved in a glucose-limited medium that also contains citrate, which E. coli cannot use as a carbon source under oxic conditions."

So these E. coli do something that E. coli can't do. But they're still E. coli. But they're not. Have I divided by zero or something?

All your argument is really saying is that the decidability of wether a particular organism is or isn't a member of a certain species gets less and less well defined the closer you get towards it's genotype, which I won't argue with. I know plenty of people who can't circle their tongue: it doesn't make them any less human.

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NT

@ Martin Yirrell

<< No, actually [the Watchmaker Argument] isn't dead, despite (because of?) the efforts of Dawkins and his ilk. >>

It's nothing to do with Dawkins or his ilk. Even without their involvement, the argument simply doesn't stand up to scrutiny, for the reasons I've pointed out and am happy to point out for you again: the Watchmaker Argument relies on an arbitrary double standard. Its proponents claim that God can exist without a cause, yet deny that anything else could exist without a cause, and they reason that, that being the case, God is the only possible 'prime cause' of everything. Since there is no logical basis for making this distinction save for one's beliefs, the Watchmaker Argument negates itself in logic and stands as a matter of faith alone.

<< No, God does not require a maker - because He has always been and always will be - He is outside of time. God is the source of all things and without beginning and therefore does not require a cause. >>

Then if He does not require a cause, we have no reason to apply that requirement to anything else. Thus, the universe need not have had a cause and the Watchmaker Argument fails.

<< Could, were it not for the evidence that it is running down - evidence that it once had a begining and will have an end. >>

That it has a beginning doesn't require that it has a creator, though. Nothing we know about the universe says that the whole thing isn't simply a transient phenomenon in some greater environment, like a bubble in a glass of fizzy pop. But time is, by definition, a function of our universe - at least time in the sense that we perceive it - just as space is. So whatever, if anything, exists outside our universe - or rather, whatever our universe exists within - needn't be bound by the strictures of time as we experience it. And even that's making the big assumption that we as conscious entities *do* actually experience time running from past to future, as we presume. If it wasn't doing that, how would we know anyway? We have little reason to believe that time is as straightforward a thing as we suppose it to be - even here, inside our observable universe.

So it's difficult to make firm, objective statements about time, about space, or about the universe or what else might exist. We can make tentative scientific observations, and those can be very helpful to us - but questions will always remain. Those questions are enough to make it even more foolish to use the sort of reasoning the Watchmaker Argument depends on: the universe *is* this, therefore it *must be* that. There's no 'must' or 'is' about it. And certainly, there's no reason to suppose that the universe - or whatever else might be out there - doesn't simply exist, outside of time, just as you claim your God does. While the universe may have had a beginning, and may have an end, there's really little reason to say that it *must* have had a prime cause at all. Only our fondness for the notion of causality leads us to assume as much - and causality as a concept must, at some point, fail: at some point we face either an infinite regress or an uncaused effect.

Of course, that's assuming we're arguing about God-as-independent-creator, rather than God-as-all-that-exists. In the latter case I wouldn't offer any argument - but the latter case wouldn't require the teaching of pseudo-Biblical creationism.

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Flame

Re: The chimp's extra chromosome (@@Junk DNA )

Martin Yirrell posted on Monday 6th October 2008 17:58 GMT:

<quote>

You don’t address my point, that in a ‘god of the gaps’ way scientists assumed that because they didn’t know what parts of the genome for they, based on their evolutionary preconceptions, assumed they were ‘junk’ left over from evolutionary history. It would have been more scientific to assign them to “we don’t know yet what they are for”. In the same way, the concept of vestigial organs was invented, resulting in around 100 organs being so described. All of these organ have now identified purpose.

<unquote>

I think you will find that there are good reasons for thinking that significantly long DNA sequences in the genomes of most existing organisms whose genomes have been sequenced are, in fact, defunct, and have no effect on the phenotype (i.e., they can accurately be described as "junk"), but I do not have time to look up the details right now. I agree that several organs that were regarded as vestigial (i.e., no longer having any function in existing organisms) now appear to have some residual function (e.g., the human appendix) but I am not aware that this applies to *all* vestigial organs. (Do you have a reference?)

I guess that you are trying to argue that God would never create anything that was pointless, therefore *all* DNA and vestigial organs must have some purpose. I could make out a more rational argument that junk DNA and vestigial organs are evidence of evolution as opposed to design. (If you want a few examples of bad design of the human body, I can supply a few, starting with: "Why are the toilets in the middle of the playground?")

<quote>

>The "God of the gaps" argument is silly and self-defeating.<

So why use the “god of the gaps” argument? I certainly don’t.

<unquote>

So what argument *are* you using?

You seem to be keen on rubbishing your opponents' arguments, but less happy to state clearly what you your own position is. I have often found that criticisms of science turn out to come from closet creationists who are unwilling to expose their own views in their entirety, and so incurring the risk of having them comprehensively demolished.

<quote>

Wouldn’t it be nice if scientists actual used the scientific method as you describe it. I fact they don’t. Scientists come to their work, like anyone else, with preconceptions, they expect the world to work in so and so fashion. Scientists who believe in Evolution approach their work with that belief. If the experiment that they carry out does not give the result they expect they can do a number of things, reject the result, redefine the result in evolutionary terms, adjust the experiment so it gives the result expected. Any result that is published that cast doubt on Evolution is treated this way.

<unquote>

The fact that scientists bring their prejudices to work is totally unsurprising. The scientific method requires that hypotheses be *falsifiable* by observation, and a hypothesis only gains wide acceptance after being tested and found to stand up. The process of devising the hypothesis is irrelevant: it could be a "hunch", inspired guesswork, reasoning by analogy, or prejudice.

Your statement that scientists always reject any result that disagrees with their prejudices is rubbish (although I agree that a theory honed over an entire career is not one that they will discard lightly.

At Cambridge in the 1960s, I (along with several hundred other maths undergrads) was lectured on the theory of special relativity by the late great Denis Sciama. (I did not know it then, and the name would have meant nothing to me if I had, but Sciama was supervising a PhD thesis at the time by a certain Stephen Hawking.) Sciama was a dedicated supporter of the "steady state" theory, of which he had been one of the main architects along with Hermann Bondi and Fred Hoyle. It was Hoyle who coined the name "big bang" as an insult to the rival theory which he thought was absurd: the name has stuck.

The two theories could be tested: the "big bang" would leave a trace in the form of background radiation in the microwave region of the spectrum; the "steady state" theory predicted no such radiation. On the day after Penzias and Wilson published their crucial paper reporting their observation of the microwave background radiation, I went to a lecture by Sciama at the John Rae Society in St. John's College. Alerted by the new findings, he threw away the notes he had prepared and publicly retracted his support for the now untenable "steady state" theory. I read recently an article by another student of Sciama's from that time, who remembered him saying sorrowfully "But it was such a beautiful theory!"

That was a real scientist at work.

If you want to see real denial of observed facts and permanent self-delusion at work, have a look at the creationists!

<quote>

Remember the discovery of haemoglobin in dinosaur bones? What a fuss! That is why, when Michael Reiss was misquoted, members of the Royal Society were up in arms against him.

Your story about how the science relating to chimp and human genetic similarity is a nice fiction. Actually what probably happened is that the scientists sat down with the information and trawled through it until they came up with some evidence. Incidentally, I mistyped, humans have telomeres about half the length of chimpanzees and other apes. Strange that.

<unquote>

The business about T. Rex's haemoglobin rang a bell, so I did a search, the most useful result of which was to tell me where you are "coming from".

I found:

Astonishing T. Rex soft tissue find seriously challenges evolution

Andrew Sibley 29th March 2005

http://www.refcm.org/RICDiscussions/Science-Scripture/XAges/Ostrich-osaurus.htm

which was linked from:

Science and Scripture

Philip Stott

http://www.refcm.org/RICDiscussions/Science-Scripture/INDEX.HTM

Richard Milton

Scientific Censorship and Evolution

http://www.eskimo.com/~billb/freenrg/evolv.txt

Evolution vs Creationism (arguments for young Earth):

http://www.godtube.com/djnlyte812/blog/view/16428

I guess from these that you are a "young Earth" creationist (6000 year-old Earth, Noah's flood was real, etc., etc.). If I have guessed wrongly, please feel free to state what your viewpoint really is.

Note that the theory of evolution by natural selection is an interlocking set of fact factual observations backed up by sound physical and biological theory. When Sciama saw his pet cosmological theory overturned, he did not throw out the whole of general relativity and astronomy. He did not, for example, go back to the flat Earth view and decide that everything must have been created by God. Similarly, an isolated strange case such as T. Rex's haemoglobin is not enough to overthrow the whole of geology and palaeontology, unless the finding can be confirmed and found to be rock solid. We would first ask what was actually found (was there contamination of the sample; was it really a T. Rex thighbone; etc.?).

The following is a rebuttal of Milton's viewpoint (see above):

How can animals that appear similar have vastly different DNA?

(Discussion between a creationist and an evolutionist re Richard Milton.)

http://www.geocities.com/wendyschristianpage/stryderconvo02.html

Please read it. It should put you right about chimps and people.

Milton had argued that an article of his had been suppressed by the THES because of a conspiracy by the atheists. The respondent in the discussion immediately above pointed out glaring stupid mistakes in his paper and suggested that it was rejected because it was tripe.

I also found:

The Genius of Charles Darwin (Series of three documentaries by Richard Dawkins)

http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/259716

Thanks for the opportunity to find that. The full videos are still available for viewing. Excellent!

The third video in the series:

The Genius of Charles Darwin - God Strikes Back

http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/259778

... is the one that is most relevant to the present debate.

Please watch it. It shows Dawkins at his best, arguing politely with dickheads whom he would probably have cheerfully throttled. There is a real peach of an Aussie evangelistic nutcase called McKay who preaches that we only die because we sin; people in the Bible really did live to be 1000 years old; there was no record of rain falling before the Flood. (I kid you not!)

I can respect the views of a religious person who believes in God as "essence" or "the ground of our being" (in Paul Tillich's phrase) and does not need to deny establish scientific facts, but I have less patience with idiots like McKay. Fundamentalists are fundamentally dishonest. They deny plain facts and claim that those who contradict their asinine views are in a sinister conspiracy to hide "the Truth". This last aspect is what makes them dangerous, rather than harmless eccentrics, and is why (to bring the discussion full circle back to Sarah Palin) why all rational people should fight for the voice of reason not to be suppressed.

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Coat

Two game wardens, seven hunters and a cow

Well, Sarah Palin knows the safety rules for handling a gun while out hunting!

NT posted Tuesday 7th October 2008 05:41 GMT @ Martin Yirrell:

<quote>

<< No, actually [the Watchmaker Argument] isn't dead, despite (because of?) the efforts of Dawkins and his ilk. >>

It's nothing to do with Dawkins or his ilk. Even without their involvement, the argument simply doesn't stand up to scrutiny, for the reasons I've pointed out and am happy to point out for you again: the Watchmaker Argument relies on an arbitrary double standard. Its proponents claim that God can exist without a cause, yet deny that anything else could exist without a cause, and they reason that, that being the case, God is the only possible 'prime cause' of everything. Since there is no logical basis for making this distinction save for one's beliefs, the Watchmaker Argument negates itself in logic and stands as a matter of faith alone.

[Stuff from NT's message snipped.]

Of course, that's assuming we're arguing about God-as-independent-creator, rather than God-as-all-that-exists. In the latter case I wouldn't offer any argument - but the latter case wouldn't require the teaching of pseudo-Biblical creationism.

<unquote>

Well said, NT!

I'm always amazed that the superstitious fraternity try to blame us reasonable guys for driving them into irrationality.

Karen Armstrong said recently in an interview that the Muslim fundamentalists would be quite relaxed about "western" science if Richard Dawkins hadn't annoyed them so much with his rabid atheism. The fact that, after the defeat of the Mutazilites in the 13th Century, under the influence of Abû Hâmid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazali (1058 - 1111 CE), Muslim science progressed hardly at all for the next 7 centuries, despite the tremendous advances in the preceding 5 centuries, seems somehow to have escaped her notice. The problem with "Islamic science", or the lack thereof, is Islam; and the problem with Islam is the Qur'an. In fact, there is no such thing as "western science" and "Islamic science". There is science, and there is superstition. During the relatively brief period of relative tolerance during the early years of the Arab empire, the Arabs practised science, and did so brilliantly. Once the dead hand of Al-Ghazali and Quranic orthodoxy were imposed, the Arab renaissance was doomed.

Science cannot progress where an ancient text is held to be inerrant and the sole source of "Truth" for all time. Sarah Palin, please note.

NT is quite right to point out the difference between "God-as-independent-creator", and "God-as-all-that-exists". I happen to believe in neither, but (as I stated in my posting that crossed with NT's) the latter is at least intellectually respectable. (See, for example, the writings of John Polkinghorne, eminent physicist and Anglican vicar.) Unfortunately, the evangelical Christians (OK, not all of them) and the Muslims (and here it is all of them, not just the extremists) believe in a permanently interfering God, who can abrogate the laws of nature at will. (H2O to C2H5OH, son, plus enough congeners to make it a reasonable facsimile of Chateauneuf du Pape? No problem for Yahweh! Zap!)

Dawkins' book "The Blind Watchmaker" is one of the most brilliant explanations of neo-Darwinism for the non-specialist reader that I have read. Among other things, he dissects in detail the corpse of the "watchmaker" argument by William Paley (1743 - 1805). It is amazing that the ghost of this defunct theory can still be kept in the realm of the undead by people like Martin Yirrel and his chums.

I make no apology for being an admirer of Dawkins. His understanding of his subject is unparalleled, and based on wide research in the field. (I mean, in the bush, not in his own subject area.) His abilities as a teacher and writer are second to none. In debate, he is rational, self-effacing, and honest (which is more than can be said for his creationist opponents). He is one of the leading thinkers on the subject of evolution (if not *the* leading thinker, following the sad death of his friend and colleague Steven Jay Gould).

It pisses me off to read time and time again the ramblings of intellectual pygmies who, at best, half understand the subject, and try to make out that Dawkins is the same sort of ignorant bigot that they obviously are.

I'm going to be away, so you kids will have to talk among yourselves for a while. I'll get back to you the week after next, but the thread will be closed by then.

To bring the discussion back to the lovely Sarah finally:

Q: Why can't a polar bear survive an encounter with Sarah Palin?

A: Because the State of Alaska won't enforce the constitutional amendment that allows Americans to arm bears!

Since this is a philosophical discussion, my coat's the one with the bottle of hemlock in the pocket!

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Flame

Dawkins did NOT accuse Jesus of "conjuring tricks"

In either this thread, or the related one concerning the ban on Richard Dawkins' website in Turkey, someone wrote that, during the Channel 4 television programme "God Strikes Back" (the third in his trilogy "The Genius of Charles Darwin") he told the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, that Jesus' miracles were "conjuring tricks", citing this as an example of Dawkins' arrogance.

I have just watched this programme again, and Dawkins says nothing of the kind. The Archbishop uses the phrase "conjuring tricks" while they are discussing the nature of miracles, but this is without prompting from Dawkins, who is listening politely and who maintains a courteous demeanour throughout the discussion.

Don't believe me? Check out:

The Genius of Charles Darwin - God Strikes Back

http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/259778

Once again, Dawkins' detractors hear and see what they want to hear and see, paying no regard to any evidence.

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Alert

Sarah Palin's family values

A friend in Texas forwarded this to me. I haven't checked the facts, and take no responsibility for their accuracy.

----------------------------------

Suppose you call yourself a Christian, and a politician new to you burst onto the scene. You do NOT know this politician's party affiliation. All you know is:

-- The politician's 19-year-old son, bewilderingly named 'Track,' is a 'hard partyer' who according to at least one national newspaper has been addicted to OxyContin ('hillbilly heroin') for the last two years.Track also loves to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana, and is an alleged drug dealer. In 2005, Track was one of four teenagers who vandalized 44 school buses; one of the participants alleges Track was the ringleader, whose role in the incident was covered up to save face for his mother. A judge gave Track the choice between jail and joining the Army. Today the politician is making political hay out of her son's 'patriotism.'

-- The politician's daughter, bewilderingly named 'Bristol,' is another 'hard partyer.' She is pregnant out of wedlock, but before her child is born she will be married to a young man named Levi. Meanwhile, a young black man named Kevin is convinced he is the true father of Bristol's baby. Whether or not Kevin is right, it is clear that Bristol has had multiple sexual partners, out of wedlock. The politician boasts that Bristol's sex education was of the 'ignorance-only' variety, the only kind the politician approves of.

-- The politician's black pastor engaged in domestic terrorism before emigrating to the United States, blaming crime in his native town on a 'witch' and convincing the local government to harass and terrorize the 'witch' until she finally had to leave town -- a 'victory' the pastor still boasts about. This 'Christian' pastor prayed over the politician in 2007, imploring God to save the politician from Democratic 'witches.'

-- Until 2002, the politician's husband belonged to a political party that is working to have her state secede from the United States. The head of the political party, with whom the politician socialized, frequently made statements like 'God damn America.'

-- The politician and her family are stonewalling an investigation into whether she illegally used her political office to attempt to have her former brother-in-law fired. During her sister's divorce proceedings,the politician was repeatedly admonished by the judge to cease making false and inflammatory statements about the character of her former brother-in-law.

-- The politician is so adamantly against allowing women to control their own bodies that she opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest. No one has asked the politician how many years in federal prison a 15-year-old who was raped by her father ought to serve for HER crime of removing a piece of tissue smaller than the head of a pin.

-- The politician's net worth is more than $2-million. She portrays herself as a working-class 'hockey mom' and 'Joe Sixpack.'

-- Evidence suggests that the politician has frequently used her political office to enrich friends (including providing jobs on slim to no qualifications) and punish enemies.

-- Three members of the family of Brad Hanson, a former business partner of the politician's husband, have provided sworn affidavits that the politician had an extramarital affair with Mr. Hanson. One of the sworn affidavits was provided by a man who has passed a polygraph test of his allegation.

I am honestly puzzled as to why self-identified Christians have embraced this politician as one of their own. Do they not notice the misogyny dressed up as 'conservative feminism'? Do they willfully not notice the drug-dealing vandal son, the promiscuous and pregnant-out-of-wedlock daughter, the secessionist husband, the extramarital lover, the black pastor who believes in witches? Or can a politician get away with ANYTHING so long as she is 'born again'?

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