i-c620c4e5fe67e33b8bac503f8de4ee85-Daniel_Shechtman_Nobel_Chemistry-thumb-280x396-69709.jpgThe finding for which this year’s Chemistry Nobel was awarded earlier today was sufficiently unexpected and counter to the orthodoxy of the time that today’s prize winner was tossed out of his own research group for reporting it. His 1982 discovery has to do with how atoms are organized in solid matter, and is based on observations made with electron microscopy. Daniel Shechtman’s imagery…

…showed that the atoms in his crystal were packed in a pattern that could not be repeated. Such a pattern was considered just as impossible as creating a football using only six-cornered polygons, when a sphere needs both five- and six-cornered polygons. His discovery was extremely controversial.

The matter that matters is now called “Quasicrystal” in which the arrangement of atoms follows a definable mathematical pattern, but the pattern is not repeated. There are aspects of this patterning seen in the ancient concept of the “Golden Mean” as well as in medieval Islamic mosaics, which provide for a lot of analogies and pretty language in explaining what this stuff is.

“There can be no such creature” is what Shechtman wrote in his lab notebook when he first observed the patterns that do not repeat themselves using electron diffraction. The solid he was examining was a mixture of aluminum and manganese that had been rapidly cooled from molten to solid state. The pattern he was looking at was a diffraction pattern with a ten-fold symmetry.

You will remember diffraction patterns from High School physics. When energy waves (light, waves on water, sound, etc.) pass through a substance that blocks its path or absorbes it in some places and not others, the energy waves that get through interact in a manner that depends on a few different variables including the nature of the gaps through which it passed. Different diffraction patterns indicate different arrangements of matter.

i-334e89b6e489859b1d7653827d0dcf1c-Nobel_Chemistry_01_Defraction.jpeg

Shechtman was using electron diffraction to observe the structure of the cooled metal when he came up with this pattern:

i-8894c627d30a025343183e0d2b5446ae-Nobel_Chemistry_02_ten-fold.jpeg

Notice the ten medium size dots surrounding and equidistant to the larger dot. This does not look like anything spectacular but it is. If you were a birder this would be like looking through the binoculars at a distant crow and when it comes into focus it has three wings. If you were reading a Tom Clancey book, this would be like finding the main characters to be all liberal pacifists. Maybe this is a little like some of the neutrinos arriving early?

There are expectations based on empirical data as well as theory, and apparently having a 10-fold diffraction pattern in this sort of material is not in the lookup tables of diffracting patterns nor is it otherwise expected. So when Shechtman’s colleagues heard of his work, they may have been thinking of Lowell and his Martian Canals: He sees these things but they are not there.

But why is this unexpected?

Atoms are organized in crystals in repeated patterns that have symmetry. The details of the symmetry vary but you can think of them like what you get when you fold paper using a repeated pattern of squares or triangles. At any point in time you can rotate the paper and the pattern returns: Four repetitions if you’ve made a square, three if you’ve made a triangle, etc.

With atoms, it was thought that the only symmetries that worked were those where atoms of a particular element ended up equidistant from each other Compare for example the following two patterns:

i-8147c316282b716e9a51ad2fac413a8d-Nobel_Chemistry_03_six-fold-smmetry.jpeg

i-c9bee47054137fef8ba2c65ee63a741a-Nobel_Chemistry_03_five-fold-smmetry_ruh-roh.jpeg

The upper pattern shows six fold symmetry, and the atoms that make up the symmetry are equidistant. The lower pattern shows five fold symmetry. The atoms here are not equidistant. Some of the atoms are closer than others. In the case of Shechtman’s diffraction pattern, there was 10-fold symmetry, which like the 5-fold symmetry was considered impossible.

Once a pattern is established, that pattern repeats itself at larger scales. So, for instance, if you have a crystal with a cubic shape, and you break it up into bits allowing it to reveal its inner crystallines pattern, you still get cubes. In the case of Shechtman’s 10-fold pattern, when you pull back and observe it at a larger scale, you get a 5-fold pattern. Like 10-fold patterns, 5-fold patterns were considered impossible. Not only was Shechtman’s symmetry not the same at different scales, but an impossible pattern yields to another impossible pattern at the larger scale. (Well, I suppose there is a certain symmetry to this.)

At first Shechtman’s results were interpreted by other experts in the field as a simple mistake that only an idiot would make. They told Shechtman that he was observing a “double crystal” and mixing up his observations. One snarky colleague gave him a school textbook on crystals implying that he should brush up on his basics. A manuscript Shechtman sent to the Journal of Applied Physics was sent back unopened.

Over time, using his personal connections to a grad school colleague and, in turn, his colleague’s connections, Shechtman got his work looked at more closely by other crystal experts, who concurred that the results were both a) real and b) impossible. Finally, in 1984, a paper coauthored by Shechtman and those experts (John Cahn, Denis Gratias and his schoolmate Ilan Blech) was published in Physical Review Letters. The world of crystallography was stunned, and the single most important pillar of dogma of the science of crystals … all crystals consist of repeating periodic patterns … was under serious question.

There are several interesting lessons in that Odyssey of Shechtman. One, don’t discount your personal and professional relationship, or the cultural aspects of scientific networks. A pure, scientific, or even “skeptical” view of Shechtman’s work failed. Shechtman needed to get someone to look at his results on blind trust that there could be something there, rather than approaching it from what was known to be very well established fact. On the other hand, it must be remembered that 99.99% of the time that a scientist gets an email from someone telling them that the basic tenets of their science are wrong, it is some crazy guy who sees things in rocks. But not this time. Ultimately, this is a case of science being conservative, which is usually appropriate, but learning something new. The turnaround time between nobody knowing this thing and key scientists getting it in print was only a couple of years.

But, Shechtman’s 1984 paper did not change everyone’s mind instantly. It was met with a combination of disdain, criticism, and uneasiness. Over time, other crystallographers started noticing that they had seen similar things but had used the old “It’s a twin crystal” brushoff to ignore their results. Over time, not only did various other researchers rediscover their own cases like Shechtman’s, but others as well that were also impossible, such as 8- and 12-fold symmetries.

There’s a lesson there too: If you want to be the one to win the Nobel Prize, be the one that notices when you’ve made the Nobel Prize-winning discovery!!!!

But what does it all mean?

Well, prior to Shechtman’s empirical discovery of what was to become known as Quasicrystals, mathematicians were messing around with a concept called aperiodic mosaics (or aperiodic patterns). Early on this concept was applied, literally, to mosaics, but eventually to atoms. The math behind aperiodic mosaics was mainly solved by Roger Penrose, a British mathematician, in the 1970s. Later, a crystallographer, Alan Mackay, applied the concept of aperiodic mosaics to atoms using a theoretical model in which he came up with a 10-fold symmetry in a diffraction study of a large scale crystal model (but not actual crystals).

Mackay’s theoretical Quasicrystal and Shechtman’s observed 10-fold symmetry were connected by Paul Steinhardt and Dov Levine, two physicists. You see, when Shechtman’s Physical Review Letters paper — the one he finally got published — was under review, Steinhardt got a look at it. Being already familiar with Mackay’s Quasicrystal model, he put two and two together. Just over a month after Shechtman’s paper came out, Steinhardt and Levine put out their own paper linking the observations and coining the term Quasicrystal.

And the rest is history.

_________________________________________________

The information used to compile this post comes from the Nobel Prize site. Photo, graphics provided by Nobel.

Comments

  1. #1 Amenhotepstein
    October 5, 2011

    I’m wondering why Levine didn’t share in this prize.

  2. #2 Mu
    October 5, 2011

    This story makes you wonder how many discoveries were suppressed as “defies science” before the age of arxiv and instant distribution. Nice to see he didn’t get scooped and got credit in the end.

  3. #3 AK
    October 5, 2011

    Two questions…

    Why isn’t this post on Research Blogging? Couldn’t you have found a paper to tie it to? I know there’s supposed to be 1-year limit on old papers, but lots of people ignore that rule.

    Why, in view of facts like this, are you so rejective of the possibility of similar unexpected discoveries in Climate Science? Could it be that you’re allowing your political opinions to influence your “scientific” opinions? Nothing in science should be cast in concrete as “fact”! It’s all just theory, more or less worth questioning.

  4. #4 Monado, FCD
    October 5, 2011

    One little clarification: Daniel Schechtman didn’t need someone to look at his work because of “blind trust” that something might be there. He needed someone to look at his work instead of dismissing it because of blind faith that nothing could be there.

  5. #5 Monado, FCD
    October 5, 2011

    AK, I have over forty years of personal, adult observation of global warming, from longer growing seasons, sustained changes in autumn colours, and possums moving further north every year to glaciers receding 100 yards in the twenty years between visits. What do you have?

  6. #6 Dr Jerred Paul
    October 5, 2011

    One question to “AK”

    Have you not read the peer reviewed study about so called man made “climate change”. Turns out it’s not man made, but caused by sun spots. Wow what a shocker! LOL
    We are interested in real science not tree hugger politically correct junk science.

  7. #7 Sean Tremba
    October 5, 2011

    AK,

    Nobody is dismissive of the possibility that there may one day be evidence against the current climate models. However, this evidence, AFAIK, does not yet exist. If someone discovers such evidence, I am confident of two things:

    1. This evidence will eventually be used to discredit the current models. That’s the point of this post. Schechtman discovered something unexpected. He presented his evidence and, after review, it was determined that it was really evidence of a significant new phenomenon that called existing theories into question. He won a Nobel Prize for it. I am sure that if something similar were to occur in climatology, a similar result will occur.

    2. If evidence against current climate models is discovered, it will take a long time for it to be accepted. You notice that Schectman discovered his 10-fold symmetry pattern in 1982. He won the Nobel Prize in 2011. That was almost 30 years between discovery and final acceptance of that discovery. That’s the way it works. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Schectman had no right to expect immediate acceptance of his findings. It turns out he was right, but it was up to him to prove it. Similarly, should evidence against climate models be found, it would be up to the discoverer of such evidence to prove that the models are wrong. It’s not up to the scientific community to prove that the accepted theories are right.

    Typical creationists who cry about thier ideas being censored unfairly would be wise to read this article. This is how science is supposed to work. If you don’t believe the currently accepted theory, then it’s not enough to just say that. You must provide evidence to prove that it’s wrong. Creationists, ultimately, really have no desire to perform actual science, however. They merely want the scientific community to provide a stamp of acceptance on their ideas without any evidence. Sorry creationists, but it doesn’t work that way.

  8. #8 True science
    October 5, 2011

    Monando, FCD

    You should really keep up with the science! Sun Spots!!!
    Sun Spots!!

    Man made climate change = politically correct
    Sun spots = science

  9. #9 AK
    October 5, 2011

    Strawman much Monado, FCD?

    AFAIK nobody with any sense is denying a net increase in global average temperature between 1970 and today. (Although the years since 1998 are open to valid dispute.)

    The existence of of a 0.8 degree rise in “global average” during the 20th century may be likely, but there are holes in any claimed “proof”. Further research may provide, or may already have provided, a falsification. People who regard that warming as “fact” will reject any such claims just as Daniel Schechtman’s were.

    Nobody in their right mind denies that CO2 has risen during last few centuries to unprecedented levels, although there’s still plenty of dispute over how recently the level was higher. (AFAIK the best evidence is the early/mid Miocene, but there may actually be some good research behind the constant claims by denialists that it was less than a million years ago.) However, there’s good reason for doubt about the causal connection between GHG’s and increasing average global temperature. All the “proof” is based on 0-dimensional (and 1-dimensional) models that are far too simplistic for good scientific prediction, or large GCM’s that, in effect, have the assumption that GHG’s cause warming built into them. The causal connection certainly seems likely on intuitive grounds, but…

    The relationship between fossil fuel combustion (dumping CO2 into the atmosphere) and increased atmospheric levels has never been proven. Again, the assumption has been, in effect, built into the models. We aren’t even sure where some fraction of the “extra” carbon from fossil fuel combustion has ended up, much less reasons why the fraction we observe in the atmosphere and ocean are what they are.

    With the exception of the historical levels of CO2 over the last few 100,000’s of years and the greenhouse effect sensu strictu, none of the science is settled. But on this blog Greg often calls all of these not-settled tentative theoretical conclusions “facts”. That was the thrust of my question.

  10. #10 David Utidjian
    October 5, 2011

    Nice write up Greg. Thanks.

    There is an excellent interview with Schechtman here:

  11. #11 hoary puccoon
    October 5, 2011

    AK @ 3–

    As someone points out every time this issue comes up, you do not appear to understand what the word “theory” means in science.

    A scientific theory is an overarching idea about the way things happen. It can be supported by scientific facts– or not. The theory of evolution, for instance, is well supported by masses of facts. The theory of anthropogenic climate change is also supported by facts.

    This is an article about a man who won a Nobel prize– the greatest honor in science– for an unexpected, intriguing, but fairly limited change in the analysis of diffraction patterns. (Many, many substances, after all, form classic crystals, not quasicrystals.) The discovery did not even shake the legacy of earlier Nobelists in crystallography like Bragg, Perutz, etc., let alone shake up all science. It’s a sign of just how much scientists know about the world– not how little they know– that this discovery was worthy of the Nobel Prize.

    Yet you jumped from the normal reaction of, “Scientists are still discovering neat stuff. Isn’t that great?” to “Scientists don’t know anything for sure.” That shows either a real lack of understanding of science– or a real desire to be disingenuous. I won’t presume to say which.

  12. #12 Greg Laden
    October 5, 2011

    AP[3]: I didn’t read the original papers, so I cant’ very well BPRR it. I often ignore the two year rule.

    Regarding comparing this to climate science: Sure, no problem. Utterly i relevant, though

    Regarding “trust”: I heartily disagree. The research was first looked at with a typical skeptical eye and rejected. The problem here is that what people typically think of as “skeptical” is not the golden mean they think it is. No pun intended.

  13. #13 AK
    October 5, 2011

    @Dr Jerred Paul…

    The relationship between solar irradiation and global average temperature may be significant. Further research is needed…

    @Sean Tremba…

    Nobody is dismissive of the possibility that there may one day be evidence against the current climate models. However, this evidence, AFAIK, does not yet exist.

    Anybody familiar with the climate models knows how poorly they represent reality:

    Figure 12 shows time series of the globally averaged surface temperature anomaly from observations and the ensemble mean from five twentieth-century runs of CCSM3 and CCSM4, plus the CCSM4 ensemble spread. The model results track the data quite well up to 1970, except for three instances. The first two are when the models have a large dip in temperature due to the Krakatoa eruption in 1883 and volcanic eruptions in 1902 that are not apparent in the data at all, and the third is when the models do not show a temperature decrease in the 1940s that is clearly evident in the Hadley Centre–Climate Research Unit Temperature Anomalies (HadCRUT3) data. These discrepancies have been present in all twentieth-century runs done with CCSM. After 1970, the CCSM4 surface temperature increases faster than the data so that by 2005 the model anomaly is 0.48C larger than the observed anomaly. This too large increase in surface temperature occurs in all CCSM4 twentieth-century runs. It is interesting to note however, that, if CCSM4 twentieth-century runs had ended in 2000 rather than 2005, then the comparison would have looked much better. Over the last 5 yr of the run, the model temperature increased significantly whereas the earth’s temperature over that period did not change much at all. However, it is clear from Fig. 12 that the CCSM4 surface temperature increases faster than both the observations and CCSM3.

    From Gent et al. (2011). CCSM4 is the latest and greatest version of the Community Climate System Model, intended to be used for papers input to the IPCC AR5. It was trained on 1850, and parametrized to duplicate the assumed sensitivity to CO2 for the 20th century. CCSM3 is the older version, used in IPCC AR4, which was trained on the 20th century and only able to duplicate the 19th using fudge factors. (Gent et al. 2011)

    If evidence against current climate models is discovered, it will take a long time for it to be accepted.

    And in the meanwhile, will our world’s economy be collapsed trying to fix a problem that may not exist?

    Ref:

    Gent, P.R., G. Danabasoglu, L.J. Donner, M.M Holland, E.C. Hunke, S.R. Jayne, D.M. Lawrence, R.B. Neale, P.J. Rasch, M. Vertenstein, P.H. Worley, Z.L. Yang, M. Zhang (2011) The Community Climate System Model Version 4. J. Clim., doi: 10.1175/2011JCLI4083.1

  14. #14 Dr Jerred Paul
    October 5, 2011

    Sean Tremba

    If you’re referring to evolution vs. creation it seems that you are terribly misinformed on this subject. But I will illuminate your understanding very quickly as I do not have time to explain it all to you.

    Evolution is a theory that many desperately try to find evidence for. As this push to find evidence for Darwin’s theory using the scientific method ensued, the SCIENCE pointed to a creator not theologians. (Of course the theologians will say I told you so).

    Read Signature in the Cell by Stephen C. Meyer where he uses the latest scientific FACTS to show how SCIENCE points to a creator. You don’t have to believe the theologians but the SCIENCE speaks for itself.

    You don’t appear to me to be someone who is interested but I will share this with you just in case just because it lines up with the above.

    The Bible says:
    Rom 1:20 From the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly observed in what he made. As a result, people have no excuse.

    May God bless you and may your heart and mind be open to the truth, Amen.

    God loves you

  15. #15 AK
    October 5, 2011

    @GL…

    2Years?! Last I heard it was 1 year. That’s great, although I suppose I’d ignore the rule either way if I had time to blog on some of the really neat stuff I’ve found lately.

    Regarding comparing this to climate science: Sure, no problem. Utterly i relevant [sic], though

    The relevance involves what seems to be a different attitude towards scientific “certainty”. If you’d gone on about James et al. the way you’ve gone on about anybody questioning your climate “certainties”, I’d have brought that up.

  16. #16 George Watson
    October 5, 2011

    What I find disturbing are the following:

    a) His manuscript to a Science Journal was returned un-opened, talk about being close minded.

    b) His results were just dismissed by many of those who said they knew everything about crystals.

    c) Apologists say this is just the way Science is done.

    Apply all of the above to Galileo’s claim about the motion
    of Jupiter’s Moon and the implication for the Solar System
    and how can you blame those who claimed they were
    “In the Know” if they were really not acting any differently
    than many “Modern Thinkers of Science”.

  17. #17 Josh Elliott
    October 5, 2011

    @Dr JP Crazypants:

    The bible is a book of fiction and self contradicting rules, in which anything written is not proof or evidence of anything more than the first seven rings were given to the dwarf lords. Those of you who keep screaming “Evolution is only a theory!” obviously do not know what a theory is..you are obviously confusing “theory” with “hypothesis.”

    Insanity like “Signature in the Cell” is well explained in “The Believing Brain,” in regards to how the delusional justify such things to themselves. Your kind will see Jesus’s face in spaghetti thrown at the wall, animal bones dropped in a voodoo circle, or even likely in my last bowel movement. Your pattern receptors are defunct, as well as your perverted religion of bigotry.

  18. #18 Dr Jerred Paul
    October 5, 2011

    Josh Elliott

    Your blatherings do not change the FACTs Josh.

    You’re “without excuse”……”without excuse”

  19. #19 NJ
    October 5, 2011

    ….aaand a wonderful crystallography post dragged down by climate change and evolution deniers in the comments.

    Fer Christ’s sake can’t you dimwitted fuckers just go back to wanking off over the Fox News bimbos and leave reality to those of us who understand it?

  20. #20 Dr Jerred Paul
    October 5, 2011

    NJ

    You remind me of the “scientists” of Columbus’ day. They (the scientists of the day) said the earth was flat (LOL!!).

    I wonder if they were as bitter and angry as you.

    Your foul bantering does cause me to pause, if evolution is true I wonder what part of the tree you are on. The evidence shows that you are unable to handle anyone who disagrees with you. Kind of like an ape when you enter his territory. Therefore I will give you a pass based on your own theory, you’re less evolved.

  21. #21 MRW
    October 5, 2011

    @Sean Tremba
    “That was almost 30 years between discovery and final acceptance of that discovery.”

    In what world does one have to wait for a Nobel Prize before we can say something has finally been accepted? Charged-coupled devices, the detectors in many digital cameras were invented 40 years before they led to a Nobel Prize. No one doubted they existed. Likewise, quasicrystals were accepted quite a while ago.

    @George Watson
    I’m not so sure that it was returned unopened. Greg Laden says his information comes from the Nobel web site. What the Nobel web site says is it came back “seemingly by return of post – the editor had refused it immediately.” My reading of that is as a way of saying that it was returned very quickly – the “seemingly” suggests that it is a figurative flourish. At best, it’s ambiguous unless there’s another source I’m not seeing.

    @Dr Jerred Paul
    Scientist’s, and pretty much everyone with an education, knew the Earth was round before Columbus’s journey. People doubted columbus’s proposal was feasible because they thought India was too far away. Turns out they were right. If the Americas weren’t there, Coilumbus would probably have starved before he could reach India

  22. #22 Timberwoof
    October 5, 2011

    “That was almost 30 years between discovery and final acceptance of that discovery.”?

    Crystallographers have not been ignoring that work, and they will not just now be revising all their textbooks. Once the discovery was independently confirmed and explained, which occurred within about two years, people started accepting it. No, it wasn’t a light switch being turned on, and no, the switch did not occur just the other day. Penzias and Wilson won their Nobel Prize in 1978, but their finding had already been accepted an used in cosmology for many years.

    Dr. Paul, I’m curious about your use of the term “desperately” to describe the search for evidence for evolution. The evidence for evolution has been obvious ever since people noticed the obvious similarities and lineages in plants and animals. Descent with modification has been well-understood by farmers for hundreds of yeas. DNA and natural selection provide the mechanism. The theory is elegant and simple and allows for more investigation. “Intelligent Design”, on the other hand, is God’s sign saying “Stop Research Here”. It answers no questions and further questions are routinely brushed off. The problem is there’s so much really bad design out there. I just saw Richard Dawkins’ video about the vagus nerve of the giraffe. Intelligent design? Really? Surely you can do better.

    As for the possibility that climate change is not occurring, I’d ask for the deniers to come up with evidence. That does not mean the barrage of confusion and doubt that they keep putting up, but real basic science. The data and the science point to anthropogenic global warming. Can we afford to not change the way we do business? One way or another, we will change. The choice is on which schedule.

  23. #23 KC
    October 5, 2011

    MRW

    YIKES, MRW!! Go back and read your history.

    Another fine example of our public school system.

  24. #24 MRW
    October 5, 2011

    ugh… sorry for the typos

  25. #25 Greg Laden
    October 5, 2011

    “seemingly by return of post – the editor had refused it immediately.”

    I don’t interpret that as a flourish. I interpret that as it was unopened. I could be wrong. If someone who knows would like to offer a correction, I’ll make it.

    Not that it matters even a tiny bit if we are allowed to assume that the manuscript was not reviewed.

  26. #26 MRW
    October 5, 2011

    KC:

    1) Very mature.
    2) I am not a product of the public school system.

  27. #27 MRW
    October 5, 2011

    According to
    http://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/200301/prl-8.cfm
    this is a quote from Shectman:
    “JAP rejected it on the grounds that it would not reach the proper readers and suggested I send it to a metallurgical journal.”

    It was not rejected because it broke with orthodoxy; it was rejected because the editor didn’t think it fit the scope of the journal. It’s hard to believe that the editor rejected it based on scope without having opened the envelope. The article also notes that when the results were published in 1984, Schechtman started getting calls within days from scientist who had duplicated his results. By 1986, There were already international meetings on quasicrystals.

    It looks to me like the phrasing on the Nobel site is misleading and that the Nobel materials are perhaps intentionally sensationalistic.

  28. #28 Dr Jerred Paul
    October 5, 2011

    Timberwoof

    Your use of the word “Obvious” in the language of evolutionists is really translated as ambiguous. If a similarity between species is your argument perhaps we should stop talking now. But I will condescend, just this once.

    Small changes within a species have nothing to do with evolution (ferns to frogs).
    It is clear that MOST changes within a species require the information to be present already. True mutations are usually harmful not helpful. The scientific fact is that natural selection only affects species within the species. NOT a species into a new species (ferns to frogs).
    To say DNA is a “mechanism” is ridiculous to the nth degree. Where did the DNA come from? What was the mechanism for DNA?

    Which came first Timberwoof, DNA or the biological mechanics to hold the DNA and reproduce it? Complex information does not happen by chance neither do the mechanisms (complex micro machines within the cell) to reproduce them.

  29. #29 Stephanie Z
    October 5, 2011

    “Unopened” is almost certainly not true if you’re talking about the envelope, probably true if you’re talking about the manuscript. Probably never got past the abstract.

  30. #30 AK
    October 5, 2011

    @Timberwoof…

    As for the possibility that climate change is not occurring, I’d ask for the deniers to come up with evidence.

    Well, I’m not a denier, although I certainly support scientific skepticism. After all, if there’s not doubt, there’s no science, only religious dogma.

    So I’ll take on your dogmatic (heh) pseudo-scientific oversimplifications. First of all, climate change always occurs. The biggest objection of the “hockey stick” skeptics is the junk science used to hide similar changes before the Industrial Revolution: The Medieval Optimum and the Little Ice Age. (There may actually not have been any change to global average temperature during these events, but the “science” used by Mann and his henchmen certainly doesn’t prove that.) And anyway, it doesn’t really matter, because as R.A.Pielke Sr. points out, “Global warming is not equivalent to climate change. Significant, societally important climate change, due to both natural- and human- climate forcings, can occur without any global warming or cooling.

    That does not mean the barrage of confusion and doubt that they keep putting up, but real basic science.

    Doubt is a natural part of science (see above). As for confusion, climate science is an extremely complex field, and cannot be simplified by simple experiment the way physics and chemistry can.

    The data and the science point to anthropogenic global warming.

    Point to, yes. Prove, no.

    Can we afford to not change the way we do business? One way or another, we will change. The choice is on which schedule.

    A good question, although your didactic finish is clearly a statement of religious dogma, not science.

  31. #31 Greg Laden
    October 5, 2011

    MRW, have you ever seen a rejection letter that said “you broke the orthodoxy”? Sorry, but it could be that it did not fit the journal, but the quote you provide does not demonstrate anything. Also, it is not correct that a paper on this topic would not reach the proper audience if published in a flagship journal.

    The article also notes that when the results were published in 1984, Schechtman started getting calls within days from scientist who had duplicated his results.

    Yeah, I noted that in the post. It’s what makes it all interesting, really.

  32. #33 RBH
    October 5, 2011

    Jerrod Paul wrote

    Read Signature in the Cell by Stephen C. Meyer where he uses the latest scientific FACTS to show how SCIENCE points to a creator. You don’t have to believe the theologians but the SCIENCE speaks for itself.

    I strongly commend Dennis Venema’s review of SitC (PDF) to your attention. From the concluding paragraph:

    While popular-level books written by nonspecialists can be very helpful to a lay audience if they are carefully reviewed by experts and adhere to consensus science, Signature is not such a book. Like Edge of Evolution before it, Signature in the Cell represents a layman’s attempt to overturn an entire field of research based on a surface-level understanding (and, at times, significant misunderstanding or ignorance) of the relevant science, published in a form that by-passes review by qualified peers, and that is marketed directly to a nonspecialist audience. This is not good science, nor science in any meaningful sense.

  33. #34 Chris Reynolds
    October 5, 2011

    Mu asks about other discoveries that have been suppressed and he may be interested in my own experiences.

    When I hesitatingly proposed in 1967 that it should be possible to build a human-friendly “white box” information processing system (as a opposed to an inherently unfriendly “black box” conventional computer system the idea would never have even started to get off the ground if it had not been a very supportitive boss, George Stern, and his boss, John Aris (see “How ICL came to axe the CODIL project” on my blog). However when ICL closed and I was declared redundant for wanting to follow up the idea I got the same kind of hostility as Shechtman – and as someone who is not good at exploiting contacts (due to vicious childhood bullying)I struggled with the research, getting many rejections because “I was an idiot” until I finally had a breakdown and abandoned the idea.

    It is only recently that I have dusted down the old files and it looks as if the idea could be a partial model of a symbolic language that could bridge the gap between the brain’s neural net and natural language. Whether this is true a study of how my research was “suppressed” could well give clues as to how other very interesting ideas have been consigned to the garbage heap.

    You will find the background of my research on my blog – and while I am making slow progress because of old age, more details aboutthe neural net re-interpretation of my research should be appearing shortly.

  34. #35 Timberwoof
    October 5, 2011

    “Ferns to frogs”? Really? Does anybody claim that that sort of thing can happen? Aside from the cute alliteration, what’s the point of that straw man?

    “It is clear that MOST changes within a species require the information to be present already.” No, it isn’t clear at all.

    “True mutations are usually harmful not helpful.” Sure, usually, but there are enough helpful mutations for there to be changes in species over time. The mechanism (errors in DNA replication) by which this occurs is fairly well understood by people who know more about it than you do.

    “To say DNA is a “mechanism” is ridiculous to the nth degree.” No, it isn’t—in the context of scientific discussions, anyway. Perhaps you think it means something else, but that means you’re not knowledgeable in the scientific method.

    “Which came first Timberwoof, DNA or the biological mechanics to hold the DNA and reproduce it?”

    This is not yet known.

    “Complex information does not happen by chance neither do the mechanisms (complex micro machines within the cell) to reproduce them.” Did you want DNA to be a mechanism or not? You can’t have it both ways. Go ahead and talk yourself into a trap. I’ll watch. Oh, and here’s a freshly sharpened microtome for splitting hairs; I can see where you’ll want to use it.

    Have you read any of the other articles in Greg’s blog or elsewhere on scienceblogs that talk about exactly these questions? No, you have not. You know less about what you’re talking about than I do. Go back and do your homework, and then we can discuss things.

    What’s your PhD in, anyway, “Dr.” Jerred Paul—theology?

  35. #36 MacTurk
    October 6, 2011

    Dr Jerred Paul(no 6) wrote “We are interested in real science, not tree hugger politically correct junk science”.

    This is either a outright lie, or an exercise in self-deception. Jerred Paul is not interested in any form of science, because this would involve testing and evidence. He merely wants his assertions to be accepted because he says so.

    Later, “(no 18) he wrote “Your blatherings do not change the FACTs Josh”.

    This is breathtaking in its arrogance, given that the Doctorate(in what?) has presented no facts. He offers either sweeping assertions, which may, or may not, be “backed up” by quotations from the book of his favoured sky fairy.

    Most of his assertions reveal that he has no real knowledge of anything involved with the Modern Synthesis of Evolution.

  36. #37 Wow
    October 6, 2011

    GL: “MRW, have you ever seen a rejection letter that said “you broke the orthodoxy”?”

    If you were not rejected for “breaking the orthodoxy”, would you ever see a letter that said “you broke the orthodoxy”?

    No.

    “JAP rejected it on the grounds that it would not reach the proper readers and suggested I send it to a metallurgical journal.”

    Is what he said he was told. This seems fairly appropriate. An electrical engineering journal shouldn’t accept a manuscript on climate change because they won’t know what’s obvious bunkum.

  37. #38 Greg Laden
    October 6, 2011

    The article in question as eventually published:

    Metallic Phase with Long-Range Orientational Order and No Translational Symmetry

    Articles published by the Journal of Applied Physics

    Formation, characterization, and dynamics of onion-like carbon structures for electrical energy storage from nanodiamonds using reactive force fields

    Transmission of terahertz wave through one-dimensional photonic crystals containing single and multiple metallic defects

    Method of determination of AlGaAsSb layer composition in molecular beam epitaxy processes with regard to unintentional As incorporation

    Temperature and excitation intensity dependence of photoluminescence in AlGaN quantum wells with mixed two-dimensional and three-dimensional morphology

    Experimental evidence for exchange bias in polycrystalline BiFeO3/Ni81Fe19 thin films

    Atomic assembly of Cu/Ta multilayers: Surface roughness, grain structure, misfit dislocations, and amorphization

    Clearly, topically,Shechtman’s paper was not out of range topically, and again, that comment … “it doesn’t really fit the journal” is a standard “Chinese Rejection Letter”

    Furthermore, the paper in question has been cited dozens of times in papers published in JAP.

    Look: It may well be that the editors felt that this was not a good fit with the journal at that time. Sometimes journals shift focus or decide for a while to publish everything they can in a given area of backlog and other topics get squeeed out. But it is a fairly general journal, topically.

    But none of that is the point. The point is that the paper as eventually published lays out a finding amazing enough to win a Nobel Prize, but when the editors first considered it they rejected it.

    They may have rejected it because their fairly wide topical journal did not want to publish an amazing finding that would change how we think about how atoms are organized in solids. But I very much doubit it. Either they simply did not see its significance or they rejected it out of hand because it seemed to them to be marginal, or the person submitting it was seen by them to be marginal.

    They did not logically reject groundbreaking research on the grounds that it did not fit their topic. That’s crazytalk.

  38. #39 Richard Van Noorden
    October 6, 2011

    GL: Let me add a little more to this story, from John Cahn (co-author on the PRL paper). His view on Shechtman’s original article, which was rejected by JAP and eventually published in Metallurgical Transactions is: “Shechtman was so unsure about people saying ‘this doesn’t exist’ that he buried his discovery in a long boring article.”

    When Cahn heard that the paper had been rejected, he said (he tells me): “This is wonderful, now you can write a proper paper”. (But Shechtman had already sent his earlier paper to Metallurgical Transactions, anyway).

    Then Cahn helped (with two co-authors) to re-present Shechtman’s work. “All I did was present the wonderful work he had done in a way that was compelling … it was accepted immediately [by PRL]” he says.

    So a great discovery requires great presentation too.

  39. #40 Greg Laden
    October 6, 2011

    Richard: Excellent point.

  40. #41 Dr Jerred Paul
    October 6, 2011

    To all the flat earth evolutionists

    You have a problem discerning between truth and conjecture. You are a typical example of those who have been educated to not question anything that lines up with conventional thinking regardless of how ridiculous. You’re simply a parrot repeating popular conjecture without using any shadow of critical thinking. The SCIENTIFIC facts speek for themselves; you denying them just make you all look foolish. I grow weary of your continuous droning. It seems that I have talked you all into a “trap”, deeming speechless with regard to facts. None of you are able to answer the most basic questions I pose. I am not interested in foolish bantering of the flat earth evolutionists. I am interested in facts. The facts point to the OBVIOUS………..INTELLIGENCE! Unfortunately something my flat earth evolutionist friends desperately lack. How sad…

  41. #42 Wow
    October 6, 2011

    “They may have rejected it because their fairly wide topical journal did not want to publish an amazing finding that would change how we think about how atoms are organized in solids. But I very much doubit it.”

    I doubt it too.

    The bit about “did not want to publish an amazing finding”.

    After all, Cold Fusion would have been an amazing finding.

    It’s rather more likely that they didn’t see it as an amazing finding, nor was the version sent the one that got the Nobel Prize.

    As Richard pointed out, it’s no good having a good idea if you bury it in crap. It has to be pretty compelling to have people wade into the much to get the nugget out.

    “They did not logically reject groundbreaking research on the grounds that it did not fit their topic. That’s crazytalk.”

    What is also crazytalk is “MRW, have you ever seen a rejection letter that said “you broke the orthodoxy”?”.

    They could logically reject a boring paper that was extraordinary in claim enough to require far more expert people to see the gold in the muck and assess whether the extraordinary claim was, in fact, an extraordinary find rather than some mistake.

    A subject expert would know what not to look at in the paper and could get a better idea of the rigour.

    And therefore reject it because they don’t have the expertise to assess it.

  42. #43 Collin
    October 6, 2011

    Not sad at all. Hilarious. We all know you’re faking.

  43. #44 Greg Laden
    October 6, 2011

    What is also crazytalk is “MRW, have you ever seen a rejection letter that said “you broke the orthodoxy”?”.

    Have you?

    BTW, to be clear, I don’t think the paper was rejected because it broke the orthodoxy.

  44. #45 Sean Tremba
    October 6, 2011

    Jeez, I didn’t think anything I said was particularly controversial (other than maybe the bit about creationists needing to read this article to see that eventually non-orthodox ideas in science do get recognized if the evidence for them exists). Maybe using the 30 years between discovery and Nobel Prize is misleading, but my real point was that it takes time for non-orthodox ideas to be accepted. That’s as it should be. For instance, I don’t see any serious scientists fully accepting the superluminal neutrino results at OPERA. We’re still checking the results and are still in the skeptical stage.

    My points were simply that there are two things to keep in mind about non-orthodox ideas in science. One is that if the evidence is there, they will be accepted. The other is that this acceptance will take time and that’s the way it should be. The person who presents the non-orthodox idea might be right, but the burden of proof is on him/her to prove that the idea has merit, not on the rest of the scientific community to proove that the idea is wrong.

  45. #46 sean tremba
    October 6, 2011

    Dr Jerrod Paul:

    Barring arguments about probibility, which don’t really carry any weight anyway I fail to see any way that there could possibly be a scientific observation that is consistent with an intelligently designed system and inconsistent with one that was not intelligently designed. Consider a thought experiment: Suppose you see a hundred coins lying on a table. Suppose you pick up a coin at random and record whether it’s a head or tail. You do so for all 100 coins. You have just recorded a sequence of heads and tails which had a 1 in 10^30 probability of occurring at random. Does that mean that some intelligent designer placed those coins on the table in that particular arrangement of heads and tails? Maybe, but based on the observation you made, you have no way to determine whether these coins were intentionally placed as they were or whether they were just randomly thrown on the table.

    The analogy to biological systems is clear. Everything that is observed in organisms results from a sequence of DNA base pairs, obviously though a much longer sequence than the one I discussed above. Looking at a given sequence of A’s, T’s, C’s and G’s (or more practically, the features of the organism that result from this sequence), how can you tell whether it was the result of an intelligent designer or just the result of evolutionary processes?

    If you want to use the old “irreducible complexity” canard, that too is a bogus argument. It is entirely possible for irreducibly complex systems to result from an evolutionary process. The thing that must be remebered is that evolution can result in the loss of components of biological systems as well as their addition. Consider another thought experiment. Assume that there is an irreducibly complex system composed of subcomponents A, B and C — call it system ABC. Since it’s irreducibly complex, removal of A, B, or C from the system results in a non-functional system. Now let’s suppose that there’s another biological subcomponent, call it D, that performs the same function as ABC, but maybe not as well. It’s possible then, that component A could have been added to D to form system AD, which gives an advantage over just D. Similarly, a selective advantage could be obtained with the addition of components B and C to system AD to form system ABCD. Now, it’s possible that system ABC performs the given function just as well as ABCD. Since biological systems and their components typically require energy to maintain, it would confer a selective advantage to an organism if component D, which now is redundant, were lost. The result is system ABC, which has now arisen via an evolutionary process, and is an irreducibly complex system.

    Please note, I am not trying to say that this mechanism is the way that IC systems in biological organisms ACTUALLY evolved. All I am doing is destroying the notion that it is IMPOSSIBLE for IC systems to form via evolutionary processes. Clearly it is not impossible.

  46. #47 Dr Jerred Paul
    October 6, 2011

    You see Sean Tremba that is what I am talking about. You take a completely irrelevant example and compare it to something explicitly and vastly more complex and purposeful.
    The complexity of a pile of coins has no purpose/function. And to say that statistics/probability have no weight is ludicrous! To use your example 1:30 chance to the reality of a 1:10E80 chance of a single protein of DNA to happen by chance is just idiotic. Your argument against irreducible complexity has no merit whatsoever. You eloquently describe nothing. You parrot the typical arguments that the facts immediately debunk. To use an argument of ABCD to ABC….bla bla bla. and compare it to a complex irreducible system built from vast amounts of complex information via DNA exposes your feeble mind(just jollity). I will make if very simple for you. If you remove the bearing from a motor it will burn up and destroy itself (biological example: flagellum).

  47. #48 Greg Laden
    October 6, 2011

    Organisms are not intelligently designed. This is obvious and can easily be demonstrated. If you think an organism works like a watch, you know nothing about watches and nothing about organisms.

  48. #49 hoary puccoon
    October 6, 2011

    Jerred Paul @ 41– “You are a typical example of those who have been educated to not question anything that lines up with conventional thinking regardless of how ridiculous.”

    Not question conventional thinking? Let’s review the evidence. At the end of World War II, the conventional thinking in evolutionary theory was:

    –Nobody really knows how old the earth is.
    –The continents are right where they always were. There must have been land bridges to explain observed biogeography.
    –Genes are made of protein. DNA is just a frame in chromosomes to hang the protein on.
    –The human line diverged from apes at least 20 million years ago, but we can’t tell that by dating fossils because there’s no way to date something that old.
    –Chimpanzees are more closely related to gorillas than to humans.
    –Dinosaurs gradually died off because they were slow and stupid. They left no descendants.
    –Most mutations are harmful.

    Not one of those pieces of conventional wisdom has stood the test of time. (FYI, most mutations are neutral.) So the claim that people who accept the evidence for evolution are afraid to question conventional thinking is self-evidently not true. It’s the creationists who refuse to let go of outdated conventional thinking.

    (P.S. A word to the wise: I earned my PhD at a Big Ten university. I believe Greg earned his from Harvard. Flashing the title of Dr. around Scienceblogs is dangerous– you’re entirely too likely to be addressing somebody who has more titles and less hubris than you do.)

  49. #50 AK
    October 6, 2011

    @hoary puccoon…

    Not one of those pieces of conventional wisdom has stood the test of time. (…) So the claim that people who accept the evidence for evolution are afraid to question conventional thinking is self-evidently not true.

    Actually, I’ve run into plenty of people, most of them “global warming” alarmists, who consider it a “fact” that humans are evolved from chimpanzees. Some of the better-informed will modify that “fact” to “evolved from a chimpanzee-like ancestor”. Quite a few of them have found it impossible to accept that recent evidence shows with high probability that humans never had a chimpanzee-like ancestor; that the common ancestor never walked on its knuckles, had arms shorter than its legs, and wasn’t any better adapted for brachiating than for walking upright, in a way chimpanzees can’t. See ref’s at bottom of comment.

    Under the circumstances, I find it hard to credit “science education” in the US. Creationists reject science on misunderstood Biblical grounds. But what about all the people who believe some sort of obsolete and/or pseudo-scientific glop as though it’s religious dogma?

    Telling people evolution is a “fact” just feed right into this. People get the idea that what “science” tells them is Revealed Truth, forgetting that it’s all still subject to redefinition.

    Who knows? A century from now it might be “common fact” that galactic tourists occasionally visited Earth and played around with its life. Perhaps tomorrow somebody will dig up remnants of a space-ship containing mechanisms most parsimoniously interpreted as DNA tailoring hardware.

    Ref’s:

    Lovejoy, C.O. (2009) Reexamining Human Origins in Light of Ardipithecus ramidus. Science 326, 74 (2009); DOI: 10.1126/science.1175834

    Lovejoy, C.O., Latimer, B., Suwa, G., Asfaw, B., White, T.D. (2009a) Combining Prehension and Propulsion: The Foot of Ardipithecus ramidus Science 326, 72 (2009); DOI: 10.1126/science.1175832

    Lovejoy, C.O., Simpson, S.W., White, T.D., Asfaw, B., Suwa, G. (2009b) Careful Climbing in the Miocene: The Forelimbs of Ardipithecus ramidus and Humans Are Primitive Science 326, 70 (2009); DOI: 10.1126/science.1175827

    Lovejoy, C.O., Suwa, G., Simpson, S.W., Matternes, J.H., White, T.D. (2009c) The Great Divides: Ardipithecus ramidus Reveals the Postcrania of Our Last Common Ancestors with African Apes Science 326, 73 (2009); DOI: 10.1126/science.1175833

    Lovejoy, C.O., Suwa, G., Spurlock, L., Asfaw, B., White, T.D. (2009d) The Pelvis and Femur of Ardipithecus ramidus: The Emergence of Upright Walking Science 326, 71 (2009); DOI: 10.1126/science.1175831

    Suwa, G., Asfaw, B., Kono, R.T., Kubo, D, Lovejoy, C.O., White, T.D. (2009a) The Ardipithecus ramidus Skull and Its Implications for Hominid Origins Science 326, 68 (2009); DOI: 10.1126/science.1175825

    Suwa, G., Kono, R.T., Simpson, S.W., Asfaw, B., Lovejoy,, C.O. White, T.D. (2009b) Paleobiological Implications of the Ardipithecus ramidus Dentition Science 326, 69 (2009); DOI: 10.1126/science.1175824

    White, T.D., Ambrose, S.H., Suwa, G., Su, D.F., DeGusta, D., Bernor, R.L., Boisserie, J., Brunet, M, Delson, E., Frost, S., Garcia, N., Giaourtsakis, I.X., Haile-Selassie, Y., Howell, F.C., Lehmann, T., Likius, A., Pehlevan, C., Saegusa, H., Semprebon, G., Teaford, M., Vrba, E. (2009a) Macrovertebrate Paleontology and the Pliocene Habitat of Ardipithecus ramidus Science 326, 67 (2009); DOI: 10.1126/science.1175822

    White, T.D., Asfaw, B., Beyene, Y., Haile-Selassie, Y., Lovejoy, C.O., Suwa, G., WoldeGabriel, G. (2009b) Ardipithecus ramidus and the Paleobiology of Early Hominids Science 326, 64 (2009); DOI: 10.1126/science.117580

    All of these can be read at the Science website with free registration:

    http://www.sciencemag.org/site/feature/misc/webfeat/ardipithecus/

  50. #51 Collin
    October 6, 2011

    It is a fact that people and apes had a common ancestor. It is also a fact that chimpanzees have the most similar DNA to ours of any living ape. This means that the huge difference in both physical and mental qualities between people and chimpanzees is the result of very small but very powerful sections of DNA. So it would take a lot of evidence to determine either way whether the common ancestor of people and chimpanzees was closer to one or the other. I highly doubt that scientists in the field of biology (note that a scientist is expected to have special knowledge only in his own field) would definitively make such a claim, or even if you’d be capable of determining whether someone you spoke to had such a credential. I also highly doubt that any biological scientist would say that the discovery of ardipithecus is definitively irrelevant to the most likely details of human evolution.

    Also, besides the fact that climatology is not the same field as biology, alarmism is not a scientific trait. Real climatologists are too busy worrying what to do about global warming to be running around alarming people.

    Finally, if the origin of life can be considered a sign of intelligence, it can also by the same token be considered a sign of stupidity.

    http://www.theshrubbery.com/udn/

  51. #52 Collin
    October 6, 2011

    P.S.
    I also believe in God. The difference is you kiss God’s @$$ and I don’t.

  52. #53 Wow
    October 7, 2011

    “If you want to use the old “irreducible complexity” canard”

    The huge problem with that irreducible complexity is that it’s been tried before and found incorrect.

    This would make someone genuine consider whether anything really IS irreducibly complex. After all, if an idea has been wrong 100% of the time, then it’s likely to be just plain wrong.

    It’s been applied and shown false so many times that there’s a very very small chance that there is *anything* that is irreducibly complex. In just the same way as every time someone has stated they’ve seen genuine magic, it’s been shown to be a trick, therefore we don’t believe there is any such thing as a Wizard. So why are so many believing in irreducible complexity? All it shows is that the proposer is dumber than others.

  53. #54 Wow
    October 7, 2011

    “Have you?”

    Well, no, that’s why asking that question is “crazy talk”.

    “BTW, to be clear, I don’t think the paper was rejected because it broke the orthodoxy. ”

    OK, it did look like you were. The question to MRW wouldn’t make much sense if you weren’t, but there’s no absolute need for a question to make sense.

    I think it just likely that there was so much guff there (defined as stuff that gets in the way of understanding), they couldn’t be confident of finding someone who would be able to make enough sense of it to find out IF IT WAS TRUE.

    Hence the “Please try a more specialist journal” message.

    This may have been in hindsight a poor decision, but then again, the poor presentation of the paper was a poor decision, rectified later.

    Science is conservative. Because science requires a consensus on what reality is telling us and whether an experiment is actually testing that reality.

    But it does work.

    Two years later, after a rewrite and examination by a few subject experts, the idea was accepted.

    That’s pretty damn quick.

    How long has the “Iris effect” been proposed? Much longer. So even if it were as rejected by the scientific body as this one was as merely an idea, two years later it should have been able to prove itself.

    That the Iris Effect hasn’t managed to gain ANY traction, indeed not even any observational evidence, after much more than 2 years indicates that there’s probably nothing to it.

    This is the difference between rejecting a good idea because it wasn’t believed (Quasicrystals, accepted after a few years) and rejecting a bad idea despite the believers (Most climate denialist hypotheses, still unable to show any proofs after many years).

  54. #55 Greg Laden
    October 7, 2011

    “Have you?”
    Well, no, that’s why asking that question is “crazy talk”.
    “BTW, to be clear, I don’t think the paper was rejected because it broke the orthodoxy. “

    they couldn’t be confident of finding someone who would be able to make enough sense of it to find out IF IT WAS TRUE.
    Hence the “Please try a more specialist journal” message.

    Could be.

    the poor presentation of the paper was a poor decision, rectified later.

    If true. So far that’s unsubstantiated and post hoc. Papers in science are almost always crappy presentations anyway.

  55. #56 hoary puccoon
    October 7, 2011

    AK @50– “Actually, I’ve run into plenty of people, most of them “global warming” alarmists, who consider it a “fact” that humans are evolved from chimpanzees.”

    Yes, and I’ve run into people who think it’s a fact that Europeans never wear blue jeans. Not one of them, however, was an expert in European popular culture.

    Evolution is a complicated subject, and it’s easy for people outside the field to have misunderstandings about the details. (And, really, whether humans evolved from chimps, or merely had a recent, common ancestor with chimps is a pretty minor detail. We’re just interested because it’s our own line.) That doesn’t make the fact that living things evolve any less a fact.

  56. #57 Wow
    October 7, 2011

    “If true. So far that’s unsubstantiated and post hoc.”

    If you knew that “If true” was unsubstantiated, why say it?

    And no, it’s not post hoc. It’s called “inference from the limited evidence available”.

    A lot of actual practicing scientists have to do this IRL.

    We have the following facts:

    1) Paper rejected
    2) Rejection says “please try a specialist journal”
    3) A rewrite to a new format worked

    Now, you seem to be absolutely fine with unsubstantiated post-hoc analysis when YOU do it, but have the unfortunate problem of having “forgot” point #2.

    Another thing “forgotten” is your agreement with the premise here:

    39

    So a great discovery requires great presentation too.

    Posted by: Richard Van Noorden | October 6, 2011 11:28 AM

    40

    Richard: Excellent point.

    Posted by: Greg Laden Author Profile Page | October 6, 2011 11:50 AM

  57. #58 Greg Laden
    October 7, 2011

    If you knew that “If true” was unsubstantiated, why say it?

    I didn’t say it.

    And what I men by post hoc is this, which apparently I’ve not made clear: Papers get rejected for a wider range of reasons than the reasons given for rejecting them. There are reasons for this, of course.

    The rest of your comment masks no sense. Something about the HTML formatting? I dunno.

  58. #59 AK
    October 7, 2011

    @hoary puccoon…

    My point had to do with general science education, not scientists, especially not scientists in the field. When people regard it as “fact” that humans are evolved from chimpanzees (pseudo-scientific glop) or something like them (obsolete theory), they clearly don’t understand science at all. So what good is their opinion WRT “global warming”?

  59. #60 Dr Jerred Paul
    October 7, 2011

    Hoary said:
    (P.S. A word to the wise: I earned my PhD at a Big Ten university. I believe Greg earned his from Harvard. Flashing the title of Dr. around Scienceblogs is dangerous– you’re entirely too likely to be addressing somebody who has more titles and less hubris than you do.)

    LOL Hoary – Do you think anyone who can divide true science from your conjecture would be impressed? Don’t think so… No, I am not impressed with titles either Hoary. It doesn’t impress me to know that you were a student at a “Big Ten or Harvard” sitting at your desk worshiping the professor as a god, devouring his every word as he spews a cauldron of conjecture, science, and opinion. Sewing into your feeble mind the same foolish theories, real science has already proven wrong, handed to him years before. Not having the b$@ls to question his/her foolish conclusions that contradict the facts, you embrace it like a love affair and parrot every word. It has been clearly demonstrated by the comments/excuses against the facts made here by you and your cohorts on this blog. I grow weary of this….farewell…

  60. #61 sean tremba
    October 7, 2011

    Jerrod Paul:

    I don’t really get your point. If you’re quibbling about a probablity of 1/1E30 vs 1/1E80, fine, then add 166 more coins to my example, and the probabilities work out the same. Further, you are begging the question. You state my example is irrelevant because there’s no purpose in the arrangement of coins, but that there is in life. However, that’s the question at hand: is there a purpose in life? You can’t just assume that there is and point to features of life as evidence of that purpose. You must, if you want ID to be scientific, look objectively at the evidence and find some evidence that is consistent with purpose and inconsistent with lack of purpose. My coin example is meant to show that such evidence CANNOT exist, so ID cannot be considered scientific. If I am wrong, then please tell me what evidence is INCONSISTENT with design. If you can’t tell me what observation would lead you to conclude that life is not designed, then design is not a scientific hypothesis.

    As for my other example, you have completely missed my point. I am quite aware of what an IC system is. It is a system in which removal of any component renders the system non-functional. I am also quite aware that some biological systems are irreducibly complex. The claim has been made that it is IMPOSSIBLE for such an IC system to result from evolution. My example is meant solely to refute that claim. If you claim that this isn’t the claim made by ID, then fine, but you cannot then use IC systems as evidence for ID.

    My example shows that IC systems CAN evolve. I am not an evolutionary biologist or a microbiologist (or a biologist of any stripe) so I cannot say from my own knowledge whether any biological systems that are IC ACTUALLY evolved in that way. My example does refute the ID claim, however, that evolution of such systems is not possible.

  61. #62 hoary puccoon
    October 7, 2011

    Jerred Paul–

    Take your meds, honey. You’re losing it.

  62. #63 Wow
    October 7, 2011

    Greg, your current assertion “I didn’t say it.” is false.

    “55

    If true. So far that’s unsubstantiated and post hoc. Papers in science are almost always crappy presentations anyway.

    Posted by: Greg Laden Author Profile Page | October 7, 2011 8:05 AM”

    Now it may be that you were quoting someone and the origin of that disappeared. In which case this is simple confusion between us.

    If you weren’t quoting someone else, then that was you.

  63. #64 Greg Laden
    October 7, 2011

    Wow, I have no clue what you are talking about or what you are trying to say. Why not try using sentences and paragraphs and don’t make me go back to old comments to figure out which part of them you read and what was in your brain when you read them.

    Make yourself clear. You get one comment to do that.

    Begin.

  64. #65 Wow
    October 7, 2011

    55 denotes post #55.

    Those things looking like a little dot in between lots of alphabetic glyphs? They indicate the end of sentences. If they are not complete sentences, then you’d better take it up with the author. Since the line “Posted by” contains the name of the person who posted post number 55, that author would be one Greg Laden.

    This Greg Laden in post #55 said “If true”.

    Someone also posting under the name Greg Laden in post #58 posted “I didn’t say it”.

    Now, either that post #55 was quoting someone else, there are more than one Greg Laden here, or you’re terminally stupid. You may feel free to include what you believe to be the cause for your confusion about whether you said “If true”.

    And if you don’t think they are complete sentences, then you need to talk to yourself about your sentence construction.

  65. #66 Wow
    October 7, 2011

    PS if you find searching for a post #55 in a thread that has ~60 entries then you are far too weak to manage to type in. I would suggest you lie down and take some medication or drink a nice healthy energy drink.

  66. #67 Dr Jerred Paul
    October 7, 2011

    Sean
    I see that you don’t get it. A pile of coins no matter how large would never compare to the probability of even a single protein of DNA to form by accident. Your analogy also includes someone logging the data into something that is useful to some future system. Just because you avoid using words like purpose or useful is irrelevant. If you believe that a stack of coins can convert itself into say……… a Windows operating system (which is less complex than DNA information) then we need to stop talking now. I know you didn’t say that outright but this ridiculous notion is implied by your analogy/comparison. Your example only refutes your ability to argue for evolution. According to your coins to information analogy………..let us start with the compiled complex information of a Windows operating system. Even this information would be absolutely useless without the structures to hold it and use it. Thus a computer gives Windows a “purpose”. Evolution attempts this ridiculous notion that the mechanical function of the cell and its DNA somehow happened simultaneously; an idiotic presumption beyond any sense of reality. If either formed separately……….the information (DNA) would appear on its own (ridiculous), while somewhere nearby the cell structure formed itself with all the micro-machines to duplicate DNA……. OOPS, wait a minute how did the cell know what kind of micro-machines to form by accident if it didn’t have the DNA information! How did the DNA know how to form its information by accident to match up with the mechanisms in the cell to reproduce it? WOW evolution is really cool, things just happen so perfectly by chance…..amazing ……LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sounds like great faith to me or perhaps blind faith. Now please; some of you may be tempted to come back with some nonsensical reason how that can all happen. I have heard it all, if you choose to embrace the evolution delusion that is up to you. Putting the proverbial bag over your head and screaming evolution…evolution doesn’t make if fact.

  67. #68 Greg Laden
    October 7, 2011

    Wow, if your intention is to make yourself clear, you’ve utterly failed.

  68. #69 NacyO
    October 7, 2011

    Jerred
    What you say makes so much sense. The bottom line is the “flat earth evolutionists” take giant leaps of “faith”. Most of the science isn’t necessarily bad but the conclusions they make. Such outlandish leaps from what the data actually presents. The pressure to believe in their “faith” has boxed me in for so long but you have inspired me. Deep down I have always known there was something to ID. Thank You

  69. #70 Sean Tremba
    October 10, 2011

    Dr Paul,

    You have missed the point. All the “information” that you speak of is, in principle, no different than an arrangement of heads and tails on coins. The only differences? There are only two possible states for a coin, heads and tails. There are 4 “letters” in the biological “alphabet”, namely the 4 DNA bases.

    I think we are never going to agree, since your assumptions and mine are different. You assume that there’s more to life than the proper arrangement of chemical constituents, and I assume that there’s nothing magical about life; it arises BECAUSE of that arrangement of chemicals.

    Consider a final thought experiment. Suppose that the complete genome of a representative human is determined. Suppose you have the ability to arrange DNA nucleotides in whatever order you care to. Now assume that you arrange a sequence of DNA nucleotides in a sequence that’s equivalent to the human genome that you determined. My contention is that, in principal, you now have the ability, with some SERIOUS bioengineering, to create a human being genetically identical to the one whose genome you determined.

    We do not take a leap of faith when we look at the evidence for evolution. We see the evidence, we seek an explanation, and evolution is it. If you have evidence for your alternative, please present it. If it’s valid evidence, it will get a hearing in the scientific community. Remember, in order to count as evidence, there must be something that would be evidence AGAINST your alternative. If every possible observation would support your alternative explanation, then you can’t possibly provide evidence in support of it.

    Before you accuse the scientific community of not following this guideline, let me give you some examples of observations that WOULD falsify our current understanding of evolution.

    1. Finding a form of life that did not use the same DNA code as what we observe. Each triplet of DNA bases encodes a specific amino acid. In principle, there’s no reason that life MUST use this specific code. A different code could work just as well. Also, it’s a non-overlapping triplet code. Different features, such as an overlapping code could possibly be successfully implemented into life. No such alternative DNA codes have ever been observed.

    2. Even more fundamental: life that does not use nucleic acids as its informational storage medium would falsify the notion of common descent. There’s nothing in principle special about DNA; another molecule could conceivably be the hereditary material. Of course, all life discovered to date utilizes nucleic acids as hereditary material.

    3. Finding a fossil of a modern rabbit that’s reliably dated to the precambrian era would not necessarily falsify common descent, but it would basically throw ALL current phylogenetic trees right out the window.

    4. Similarly, the current phylogentic trees would be falsified by the finding of a fossil that shows evidence of both bird-like and mammal like features. That’s because the avian and reptilian lineages diverged before the mammalian and reptilian lineages did. There should be no common ancestor of birds and mammals that is not also a common ancestor of reptiles.

    5. There are certain viruses that have infected reproductive cells in the past and left their DNA in future generations of organisms. DNA sequencing has recognized these insertions in a variety of organisms. The DNA of all primates, for instance, have some of these insertions in common. If a given insertion were found to occur in gorilla and human DNA, but not in chimpanzee DNA, that would falsify current theories of primate evolution. To date, all insertions found in gorillas and humans also occur in chimpanzees. The reverse is not true. There are insertions found in only human DNA and ones found in humans and chimps, but not gorillas. This is exactly as would be expected if the chimps and humans had a common ancestor that existed after the gorilla lineage had split off.

    Your turn now. What observation could possibly make you give up your belief in the design of life? I’m not asking you to give up your beliefs. Just tell me what you (meaning a collective you, not you personally) could observe that would make you give up ID.

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