Respectful Insolence

I may have been a bit hard on Richard Dawkins lately, but, if he believed in saints, Dawkins would deserve sainthood for keeping his cool in the face of so much concentrated idiocy coming from Bill O’Reilly:

A couple of lovely O’Reilly quotes:

“I’m throwing in with Jesus because you guys can’t tell us how it all got here?”

“When you guys figure it out, then come back to me.”

Then, of course, O’Reilly couldn’t resist pulling out the “fascism” gambit.

Geez, I don’t think I could have restrained myself as well as Richard Dawkins did with Bill O’Reilly. In the face of such blustery nonsense, the gods themselves, if they existed, would contend in vain.

Comments

  1. #1 Zetetic
    October 11, 2009

    @ Orac:
    About the “fascism” gambit.
    My favorite part about it is that he is also indirectly referring to the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s first amendment as “fascist” too, since the amendment mandates that he can’t teach a particular religious belief (from one religion) in the class rooms.

    Not that it come as a surprise.

  2. #2 SciencePundit
    October 11, 2009

    I love when ORLY told Dawkins that that was his normal voice and Dawkins replied “I know. I’ve been warned.”

    OT: PZ just posted the video of Bill Maher interviewing former Senate majority leader Dr. Bill Frist. Frist totally schools Maher on the H1N1 vaccine issue!

  3. #3 superdave
    October 11, 2009

    I don’t agree with O’Reilly, but as far as this interview is concerned, he allowed Dawkins to speak more than I’ve seen him do with other guests. It really wouldn’t surprise me if Bill actually likes having Dawkins on the show.

  4. #4 Sid Offit
    October 11, 2009

    “Stop shouting at me!”

  5. #5 Joseph
    October 11, 2009

    “I’m throwing in with Jesus because you guys can’t tell us how it all got here?”

    And other guys can? Oh, they claim they can.

  6. #6 Whamocat
    October 11, 2009

    O’Reilly believes in evolution? How broadminded of him.

  7. #7 Tom Holder
    October 11, 2009

    If you believe that we must teach all beliefs then we should start teaching kids holocaust denial, the great spaghetti monster and the possibility that there really IS a monster in the closet (I mean think how many kids believe it – surely we must cater to such beliefs).

    O’Reilly pisses me off

  8. #8 Discombobulated
    October 11, 2009

    Dawkins’ face when he was accused of fascism was priceless. I had to extract it and make it into an animated GIF.

    He’s had enough experience with US media and with BillO before to expect it, but I’m sure it is still completely mystifying.

  9. #9 Mike
    October 11, 2009

    That was one of the dumbest performances I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen O’Reilly many times before. He could give a class in illogical remarks.
    Plus, he kept referring to “Mr. Dawkins”, in what (I think) was a blatant attempt to take away his standing in science.

  10. #10 Prometheus
    October 11, 2009

    It was about what I would have expected – Dr. Dawkins is a committed atheist and Mr. O’Reilly is a committed theist (Christian variety). I doubt that either expected to change the other’s mind. O’Reilly’s remarks were so predictable (except for the “fascism” one) that I watched the entire clip in a continuous state of deja vu.

    It was a book-tour interview with a difference – the difference being that in most of such interviews, the “host” doesn’t argue with the author (most often because they don’t know what’s in the book beyond the material on the dust cover).

    I’m surprised that O’Reilly would interview Dr. Dawkins, as he must have known that he was giving free publicity (even though O’Reilly’s audience isn’t in the key demographic for Dawkins’ book). Dawkins, on the other hand, certainly knows that “controversy sells”, and Fox is the only network where teaching evolution and denigrating ID would be a “controversy”.

    Strangely enough, the interview didn’t change my mind about evolution, atheism or Dr. Dawkins’ new book (I plan to read the book the next time I have a long flight).

    Prometheus

  11. #11 Cath the Canberra Cook
    October 11, 2009

    Wait, Science Blogs has got back to front this morning. Orac’s blogging creationists and PZ’s blogging anti-vaxxers. Head asplode.

  12. #12 mb
    October 11, 2009

    Note how O’Reilly doesn’t actually talk about Richard Dawkins’s new book at all, but primes the entire conversation with a clip from a previous interview on a broader issue. Instead of discussing any interesting examples from the book, we instead get another discussion about Intelligent Design (unnamed) backed up with “evolutionary theory doesn’t explain every field of inquiry, ergo Jesus,” and a touch of “What’s science done for us anyway?” If I wanted more of that I could read the cranks that have pitched a pavilion in Amazon.com’s science community. Outside of demonstrating that Bill O’Reilly’s head is full of flan, what information could the audience glean from watching that?

    Everyone that goes on Bill O’Reilly show must realize that they’re just pieces in his game of participatory narcissism, and that they’ll be barraged by his hyperbole at the slightest disagreement. I hope that Richard Dawkins managed to at least sell a few books to O’Reilly’s audience for his trouble.

  13. #13 Sid Offit
    October 11, 2009

    PZ just posted the video of Bill Maher interviewing former Senate majority leader Dr. Bill Frist. Frist totally schools Maher on the H1N1 vaccine issue!

    —————————

    Schooling one by making yourself look like an idiot? That’s a unique concept. The swine flu 98% effective? Is he kidding?

  14. #14 Sid Offit
    October 11, 2009

    Swine flu vaccine that is

  15. #15 Zetetic
    October 12, 2009

    I don’t know about the “98%” figure, but it has been shown to be effective.
    Early Data Show H1N1 Vaccine Is Highly Effective

    Even a single dose of the watered-down version of the vaccine produced enough antibodies to protect against infection in 80% of the 175 people studied.

    Of course any clinical effectiveness of the vaccine will be improved by having as much of the population immunized as possible, due to herd immunity.

    Also, “effectiveness” is determined by the parameter being measured. If you only criteria is not getting the flu at all, then the vaccine while score lower on effectiveness. If on the other hand, you main goal is preventing flu related deaths by both preventing infection and lessening the severity of the symptoms, then the vaccines score much higher.

  16. #16 Calli Arcale
    October 12, 2009

    “I’m throwing in with Jesus because you guys can’t tell us how it all got here?”

    This one bugs me so much. Not only is it saying “well, you can’t prove everything, therefore I’m going to unquestioningly accept what my parents told me when I was little and what’s in this book they said is true but has no proof of any kind in it”, but it *also* carries the implication that the speaker knows the mind of God, knows everything that *really* happened, before there were humans to witness it, and knows *well enough* to know that their interpretation of Scripture is correct.

    The arrogance is astounding, and emblematic of what’s wrong with the vocal minority which, by virtue of bluster and aggression (the same techniques useful in any form of politics) have gotten themselves into the position of being the “voice” of Christianity to the world at large.

  17. #17 E Jamison
    October 12, 2009

    I dont know where you guys live, but over 70% of our county has already had the swine flu. Most of the rest has already been exposed to it. 2 middle schools, 2 highschools and 4 intermediate and primary schools experienced over 400 kids absent at each school every day in the month of Sept. There are only 600-1100 in each school. Of course, the rest of the families all ended up with it too. They are actually still testing people for h1n1 here because most people are paying themselves. No deaths to date. We were waiting for the vaccine, but all 4 of my kids, my husband, me and my mom all already had the virus. Most people will not need the vaccine, and the school absenteeism has decreased dramatically.

  18. #18 passionlessdrone
    October 12, 2009

    Hi Cath the Canberra Cook –

    Head asplode

    Hehe.

    - pD

  19. #19 E Jamison
    October 12, 2009

    @17 sorry, did not mean to post that on this thread. I still had ‘dear John’ on my mind.

  20. #20 Uncle Dave
    October 12, 2009

    I agree with Bill.
    And there are still witches amoung us.
    Lets have another good ole Inquisition!!!!

    Since we did not have it figured out 500 years ago was well, how many people were killed because thier illnesses were thought to be possessions of the devil!!!!

  21. #21 nutheridea
    October 12, 2009

    The Atheists insist that only evolution be taught in school. The Creationist insist that at least an alternative pseudo-science of Intelligent Design be taught as a possibility. Both miss the point to some degree in my opinion. We apparently exist (I just looked in the mirror, and though admittedly I’ve looked better, I do SEEM to exist), therefore we were created. Nothing can exist in this particular version of reality unless it was first created, so the issue is not creation vs. non-creation, but HOW we were created– namely “by accident” or “by design”.

    Atheists argue that humans were created “by accident”, unable to believe there could possibly be a design. Creationists usually argue that humans were created by a deity “all at once” (I call it the “poof” theory). I have long considered an alternative concept that combines the two– that evolution is/was intelligently driven. Evidence is beginning to build that viruses, more specifically retroviruses, could well be the key driving mechanism for the addition and modification of DNA, i.e. for evolution. But who knows, there could be other design explanations to be explored.

    So it seems to me that what should be taught in school is that creation might have been accidental, or might have been by design– science just doesn’t know yet– and here are the generally most accepted theories for each possibility. Yeah?

  22. #22 Jim
    October 12, 2009

    @21 Nutheridea: “nothing can esist….unless it was created”? Well yeah, but created how? It seems quite possible that jillions of chemical reactions in a extremely different world environment billions of years ago stumbled into a selfreplicating system and that led to the establishment of life on this tiny planet. Evolution turned that accident into you.

  23. #23 Scott
    October 12, 2009

    Why is it that people who argue for teaching creationism can never seem to grasp the difference between evolution and the origin of the universe? Hint: it’s huge.

    Evolution is science; it should be taught in science classes. Science doesn’t know the ultimate origin of the universe, so that is not taught in science classes. Creationism in all its various permutations (including ID) is not science by any meaningful definition, and therefore has no place in a science classroom.

    If you want to discuss the various things people believe about how the universe came into existence, or the fact that some people are sufficiently deluded to deny evolution, fine – but teach it in a philosophy class. (And don’t just teach the fundamentalist Christian version, either – if you’re going to do that, then you should also cover the Hindu version of creation, just as an example.)

    Science classes should only teach SCIENCE.

  24. #24 the bug guy
    October 12, 2009

    @nutheridea,

    That’s nothing but a variation on good, old-fashioned theistic evolution or Intelligent Design Lite.

    But since there’s no evidence for design, there’s no reason to teach it.

    However, the evidence we have is fully compatible with evolution. No outside direction necessary.

    If anything, the evidence we have of common descent contradicts the idea of a creator. Life has plenty of “good enough” functions and structures that have persisted through time and show common descent.

  25. #25 nutheridea
    October 12, 2009

    Hehe, knew I was going to get a rise out of people on that one. Okay Scott and Jim, consider that if you are teaching evolution, in SCIENCE class, and a student raises their hand and asks “excuse me teacher, but what causes these modifications in DNA over time?”

    The teacher has four options for answering that:
    1. Totally random, accidental in nature
    2. Totally by design by some intelligence somewhere
    3. Either by design or accident, we don’t know which yet
    4. Go take a philosophy class

    Personally, I would prefer my kids SCIENCE teacher to answer #3.

    Food for thought: there is particle mass perfect for being carried at something like .5C by solar winds that also isn’t harmed by cosmic rays and won’t burn up in the atmosphere of an earth-sized planet. Happens to be the exact molecular weight range of retroviruses. Doesn’t sound like philosophy class stuff to me..

  26. #26 titmouse
    October 12, 2009

    “excuse me teacher, but what causes these modifications in DNA over time?”

    A number of factors: ionizing radiation, ERVs, mistranscription errors, teratogens.

  27. #27 Diane G.
    October 12, 2009

    #3
    I don’t agree with O’Reilly, but as far as this interview is concerned, he allowed Dawkins to speak more than I’ve seen him do with other guests. It really wouldn’t surprise me if Bill actually likes having Dawkins on the show.

    Posted by: superdave | October 11, 2009 4:02 PM

    Of course he does. Any show is much more entertaining when you can induce “the enemy” to appear, rather than a fellow traveler. Combined with the fact that O’Reilly can count on Dawkins to be “civil,” & argue intelligently, which means he knows that he will easily be able to appear to “win” (to his audience) with his ususal shout-over strategy. Just as Dawkins knows his followers will perceive his obvious triumph for reason…Not to mention that “any publicity is good publicity.”

    It’s all theater–O’Reilly has a show that needs viewership, Dawkins has a book to flog, FOX thrives on this model…& we, the audience, go along…Oh, and it provides great blog fodder, as well.

    –Diane, feeling particularly cynical today…

  28. #28 nutheridea
    October 12, 2009

    Titmouse, you left off retroviruses. From the new England Journal of Medicine “This reverse flow of genetic information, which contradicted the Central Dogma (that DNA makes RNA, which in turn makes protein) is characteristic of retroviruses (hence their name) and has since been found to contribute substantially to the genetic remodeling that is part of evolution.”

    Scary huh? It COULD be driven by intelligence, and still be science. For some reason exploring that doesn’t bother me like it seems to bother many.

  29. #29 the bug guy
    October 12, 2009

    @25
    The factors listed by titmouse would produce a result closest to option 1 and that’s what I’d want a science teacher to discuss.

  30. #30 Ramel
    October 12, 2009

    I wouldn’t describe evolution as accidental, but I fairly sure nutheridea was an accident…

  31. #31 nutheridea
    October 12, 2009

    Ramel, please dicount me with logic and not personal attacks. For instance, help me understand how an octopus, which developed light sensitive organs (eyes) in a completely separate evolutionary path, has the EXACT SAME GENE to produce the exact same light sensitive protein as mammals, out of the millions of possibilities for similar light sensitive proteins? Logic would dictate that the gene wasn’t a random happening, and was somehow acquired from the shared environment. Right?

  32. #32 Mr. B
    October 12, 2009

    nutheridea:

    Titmouse, you left off retroviruses.

    Now, I’m no scientist, and I have had very little biology in my education thus far, but I actually read what titmouse wrote:

    A number of factors: ionizing radiation, ERVs, mistranscription errors, teratogens.

    And even to my untrained mind, I think ERVs count as retroviruses, given that the initialism stands for endogenous retrovirus. (And honestly, I owe my knowledge in that regard to ERV.)

  33. #33 Uncle Dave
    October 12, 2009

    “…and a student raises their hand and asks “excuse me teacher, but why do some people believe that it isn’t random and that there is some intelligent entity?”

    Now the teacher is in quite a quandary.

    Simply because the teacher cannot answer the question with any certainty (DNA modifications), you have to bring in the Intelligent design slides?
    I agree with Scott, you are still confusing science with philosophy.

    By the time your kid is faced with a scientific discussion of DNA modification it is likely that he already has some sort of opinion or philosophy on the quantum origins of man regardless of what a teacher might think.

    As it stands right now, your kid might draw an answer from any of the 4 options and what’s wrong with that? It’s not illegal to answer any of the four. That is the more serious issue with the debate, that there is always someone that does not like the answer the teacher gives. Never mind that the teacher got all the material right up to that point, it was the part where he tried to athiest up my kid, or he tried to get my kid to think there is an intelligent power that people get all nuts!!!

    Oh those of great faith, always with the foot in the door.

  34. #34 Mr. B
    October 12, 2009

    Also:

    The teacher has four options for answering that:
    1. Totally random, accidental in nature
    2. Totally by design by some intelligence somewhere
    3. Either by design or accident, we don’t know which yet
    4. Go take a philosophy class

    Or maybe the answer that I hear more generally from evolutionary biologists: Neither by design or accident, but by natural selection and other non-intelligent selective forces. I’m surprised that someone didn’t give this answer right away.

  35. #35 nutheridea
    October 12, 2009

    Oops, thanks Mr. B for pointing out that ERV’s are retroviruses– didn’t know that. My bad. Sorry titmouse.

  36. #36 Joseph
    October 12, 2009

    which developed light sensitive organs (eyes) in a completely separate evolutionary path, has the EXACT SAME GENE to produce the exact same light sensitive protein as mammals, out of the millions of possibilities for similar light sensitive proteins?

    Without knowing much about the specifics, I’d imagine not all light sensitive proteins are equally adaptive. There might be one that is specially adaptive. It would not be surprising then if different evolutionary paths stumble upon the same adaptive allele eventually, which would subsequently acquire a high frequency in each of the populations.

  37. #37 nutheridea
    October 12, 2009

    Mr. B, the point at issue (from my thread anyway) is not about natural selection or whether intelligence is involved in such selection, but rather what drives the DNA changes that allow natural selection to work. Purely accidental random occurances, or could something be modifying/driving the randomness.

  38. #38 wheatdogg
    October 12, 2009

    Bill O must be reading the Andy Schlafly-authorized version of the Bible. I don’t recall Jesus ever addressing evolution with the disciples.

  39. #39 mb
    October 12, 2009

    nutheridea what you are engaged in is similar to what English majors do when they dump “quantum mechanics” in the middle of a script to rationalize magic. Where did you get the impression that what you brought up supported intelligent design?

  40. #40 Dianne
    October 12, 2009

    Everyone is being way too hard on nutheridea. It is absolutely clear that modifications in DNA due to intelligent desgin happen all the time: what do you think transgenic and knock-out animals are, after all?

  41. #41 titmouse
    October 12, 2009

    nutheridea, being able to recognize a mistake you’ve made means you probably are teachable. Sadly, most creationists who visit scienceblogs can’t do that.

    I have high hopes for you.

    When scientists can’t explain something, “I don’t know” is the right answer.

  42. #42 titmouse
    October 12, 2009

    Purely accidental random occurances, or could something be modifying/driving the randomness.

    Let’s assume you are a scientist, and you’re considering the possibility that an intelligent agent is fiddling with the DNA part of the time. What then? What’s your next move?

  43. #43 Joseph
    October 12, 2009

    Purely accidental random occurances, or could something be modifying/driving the randomness.

    It’s not purely random. Adaptation to the environment drives which mutations are more likely to advance.

    I can give you an example from Computer Science, which doesn’t require geological time to test. It’s possible to write a program based on evolutionary principles (the technique is called genetic programming) that solves a problem such as the traveling salesman problem (which is NP-complete.)

    The traveling salesman problem is so hard computationally that the laptop I’m writing this on would take hours to solve it using a brute force approach for even 11 or 12 cities. Run time is proportional to N^N. (A brute force approach would be equivalent, in average, to a ‘purely random’ process as you describe it.)

    Yet, a genetic programming approach can come up with an optimal solution much more quickly for bigger tours (e.g. 20 cities), though it’s not guaranteed that it will solve them. For much larger tours, practically impossible to solve through exact algorithms, a genetic algorithm can still come up with a reasonably good solution in a reasonable amount of time.

    So it works much better than a ‘purely random’ process and there’s a reason why.

  44. #44 Helena Constantine
    October 12, 2009

    The correct to answer to O’Reilly’s question, “You guys don’t know how everything got here,” was not “We’re working on it>” Better something like, “Cosmological science has made tremendous advances in the last half century, but the theory that the universe was created through language–casting a spell–as described in Genesis–has not been taken seriously since the seventtnth century.”

  45. #45 nutheridea
    October 12, 2009

    Titmouse, thanks for offering to be my teacher, but I’m not a creationist. I’m an evolutionist who is simply open to the idea that the seemingly random DNA mutations that clearly are the basis for natural section, might not be so random under closer scrutiny and analysis. Specifically here I’m bringing up the concept that retroviruses possibly travelling great distances through space collectively contain the code that has not just created humans, but many if not all complex life forms on earth. It’s just fun to think about, so don’t get get your undies in a wad everyone.

    And its also instumental in exposing entrenched dogma.

  46. #46 nutheridea
    October 12, 2009

    Joseph, the mutations, if not intelligently driven, are necessarily random.

  47. #47 Zetetic
    October 13, 2009

    @ nutheridea:
    Mutation may be random, but selection is not. That is why it’s erroneous to refer to evolution as “random” as so many creationists do.

    As to your space virus hypothesis, yes it’s technically possible, but is has a couple of problems.

    First, I can hypothesize that trans-dimensional beings cause mutations in life on Earth, but that doesn’t make it scientific without credible evidence or a plausible mechanism to back it up. The same problem occurs with “space viruses”. Evolution on the other hand already has this part solved.

    Second, you have the problem of providing a plausible mechanism, again the morden theory of evolution already has this solved too. You’ll need to demonstrate that the viruses can make the journey. Considering the distance, environments, and the astronomical (no pun intended) volume required for sufficient numbers of viruses for them to random spread through space to reach one little bitty planet, it’s already extremely unlikely (read: “almost impossible”). Also, you’ll then need to show that they’ll even be compatible in the first place with terrestrial life. (Why would they even have DNA in the first place? Why would they just happen to use the correct genetic encoding?) Additionally, if you want to posit an intelligence behind such actions, you’ll then need to show that it exists. You don’t get to “just make it up” because you’d like too, not in science at least.

    ————————————————————————————————————————————————-

    The biggest problem with such a hypothesis though is that it’s utterly unnecessary. Not only does Occam’s Razor argue against it, but laboratory research and testing has shown it to be completely unneeded to explain both mutations and evolution.

    Mutations be observed under laboratory condition, and the scientists have been able to trace what mutation happened and observe how if effects the organism’s ability to survive under controlled condition.

    In other words, your scenario isn’t taken seriously in science classrooms for the same reasons that I.D. isn’t discussed in the same classes….because it isn’t scientifically supported.

  48. #48 Pete
    October 13, 2009

    #31

    For instance, help me understand how an octopus, which developed light sensitive organs (eyes) in a completely separate evolutionary path, has the EXACT SAME GENE to produce the exact same light sensitive protein as mammals, out of the millions of possibilities for similar light sensitive proteins? Logic would dictate that the gene wasn’t a random happening, and was somehow acquired from the shared environment. Right?

    Well, since it’s reckoned that the common ancestor of mollusks and vertebrates had already developed a primitive eye (e.g. see The Human Lineage by Matt Cartmill, Fred H. Smith, Kaye B. Brown, p.32) is this really such a mystery? You could also read the chapter on sight in Life Ascending by Nick Lane.

  49. #49 Joseph
    October 13, 2009

    Joseph, the mutations, if not intelligently driven, are necessarily random.

    A mutation is random, but the mutations that thrive long term are not exactly random. It’s as simple as that.

    Denying the evolutionary process makes no sense, for the reason I noted. It’s used every day in programming, and it works.

  50. #50 Dianne
    October 13, 2009

    seemingly random DNA mutations that clearly are the basis for natural section, might not be so random under closer scrutiny and analysis.

    Indeed, some mutations aren’t random. Retroviruses like to insert into genes which are open and actively coding, for example so the insertion of retroviruses into the DNA will be non-random. And there are spots where the DNA is left intentionally vulnerable to change, if not necessarily mutation per se, i.e. the hypervariable regions of the immunoglobins. However, none of these mechanisms require intelligent intervention of any sort.

    Specifically here I’m bringing up the concept that retroviruses possibly travelling great distances through space collectively contain the code that has not just created humans, but many if not all complex life forms on earth.

    Ok, I’ll play. What’s your evidence for this hypothesis?

  51. #51 titmouse
    October 13, 2009

    To defend nutheridea, I don’t think he’s claiming to have evidence. He’s merely asking, is this space virus hypothesis possible?

    Actually, “space virus hypothesis” is not correct. A scientific hypothesis must be stated in a manner that allows it to be subjected to some test that might prove it false. Nutheridea’s idea isn’t sufficiently developed for that. So perhaps we should say, “space virus conjecture.”

    Nutheridea’s task at this point is not to provide or even gather evidence. He needs to translate his conjecture into a working hypothesis. And to do that, he’s got to define precisely the phenomenon he’s hoping his hypothesis might explain. I’m a little fuzzy here, and perhaps he is also.

  52. #52 Scott
    October 13, 2009

    The teacher has four options for answering that:
    1. Totally random, accidental in nature
    2. Totally by design by some intelligence somewhere
    3. Either by design or accident, we don’t know which yet
    4. Go take a philosophy class

    Personally, I would prefer my kids SCIENCE teacher to answer #3.

    Then you don’t understand science. The CORRECT answer is “the current evidence indicates #1″.

  53. #53 Pablo
    October 13, 2009

    “excuse me teacher, but what causes these modifications in DNA over time?”

    Let’s consider that question a little more to be sure what the student is asking. As I see it, there are two parts, with a third implied

    1) What causes DNA modifications?

    titmouse answered this pretty succintly

    A number of factors: ionizing radiation, ERVs, mistranscription errors, teratogens.

    Now, if you look at it, none of these are really random events, and all have perfectly deterministic mechanisms. The real random part is in which parts of the DNA are subject to these effects is effectively random (I say “effectively” because you could argue that there is a deterministic mechanism involved – for example, the path of a photon of ionizing radiation is physically determined, and the position of the cell containing the DNA is determined to a large extent by the position of the organism (if I am sitting at my desk, my DNA will not get struck by the photon hitting my neighbor’s chair; however, to dictate which base is mutated is going to take some very fine tuning of the position of my DNA, control that I don’t have right now); in the end, which part of the DNA mutates by these mechanisms is as random as shaking the dice and tossing them. Sure, their ultimate outcome could be explained by every little interaction, but it easily becomes way too complicated to describe, such that by all accounts, the outcome is random). The fact that the deterministic effects apply randomly onto DNA is an important implication in the game.

    2) Why do these modifications that occur proliferate into the population? That is the “over time” aspect of the question. And there the answer is natural selection.

    Of course, that is giving the student the benefit of the doubt on the question, which is actually non-sensical. DNA does not change “over time.” DNA changes actually very rapidly. Like during a replication event. What changes over time is the frequency of various alleles. So the answers suggested in the initial example seem like a false tetrachotomy. The first answer has to be a question to clarify: “When you say DNA, do you mean the DNA of an individual, or are you talking about the DNA makeup of the population?”

  54. #54 nutheridea
    October 13, 2009

    Okay, forget the space travel thingy. Let’s just for a moment talk about whether there is “good” evidence that the the RANDOM DNA mutations are sufficient to explain the large and very complex changes that occured in evolution, or whether there is “better” evidence that these large changes were supplied via viruses, leaving out for now where these viruses acquired the necessary coding.

    According to Luis P. Villarreal, the Director of the Center for Virus Research at the University of California, Irvine:

    The traits that viral genes appear to have provided to eukaryotes include —

    -The eukaryotic nucleus,
    -Flowering plants,
    -The adaptive immune system in animals,
    -Live birth (viviparous) placental mammals,
    -The multi-membrane bound separation of transcription from replication,
    -Pore structures that actively transport RNA into the cytoplasm,
    -Chromatin proteins,
    -Linear chromosomes with telomere ends,
    -DNA-dependent RNA polymerase,
    -The enzymes that modify mRNA in a eukaryotic-specific way,
    -The complex role of tubulin in the separation of eukaryotic daughter chromosomes and
    -The dissolution and reformation of the nuclear membrane.

    Some of the supplied proteins have functions that are clear only in the eukaryotic context, and unexplained in the virus or even its usual host, which may be a bacterium. In standard darwinian theory this surprise is mitigated if viruses stole the genes from eukaryotes in the distant past. But Villarreal thinks the genes went the opposite way: viruses supplied them to eukaryotes. Frequently, the viral version of a gene represents the simplest example of any related protein in a functional protein family. …A properly conducted phylogenetic analysis will usually show that the viral version is basal to the version found in the host. The viral version appears to be older, often simpler.

    If viruses are the earliest source for eukaryotic genes, the standard darwinian account for those genes does not work. But eukaryotic genes supplied by viruses are a basic prediction of cosmic ancestry.

  55. #55 linky
    October 13, 2009

    Source for nutheridea’s claim…

  56. #56 Joseph
    October 13, 2009

    The traits that viral genes appear to have provided to eukaryotes include

    Basis of this assertion?

  57. #57 Ramel
    October 13, 2009

    You see folks, this is why I chose not to engage with the loony and went straight to the taking of the piss….

  58. #58 Zetetic
    October 13, 2009

    @nutheridea:

    Yes, Yes…the idea of traits being transfer between “simpler” and early organisms has been known for a while now. The first problem is that all of these virus also seem to have evolved naturally, and there is no evidence that the traits the viruses transferred were produced by any other means.

    Modern evolutionary theory has no trouble with traits being spread from one species to another by viruses, it’s just that it can only occur under some circumstances and there is no reason to believe that it’s any other than a natural process. This also still ignores that new traits have been proven to be caused by mutations within a cell without any sign of viral involvement.

    As for “cosmic ancestry” your still ignoring the problems with that idea that I pointed out earlier.

    You also seem to be greatly over generalizing that “viruses are the earliest source for eukaryotic genes”. Did it occur to you that without genes in the eukaryotic cells, in the first place, that viruses wouldn’t have done them any good?

    All the research seems to indicate is that some genes appear to have been spread from one species to another by early viruses, that’s all. Please step back, and look at your arguments objectively. All you’ve done is look at some research that indicates that the role of viruses in early evolution was overlooked, and expanded that without any logical reason for doing so into an utterly baseless argument for “cosmic ancestry”.

    As I said before that can change with the discovery of new evidence…. but so far it looks to be extremely implausible, is unnecessary to explain the observations, and the research just can’t be reasonably “stretched” to back up your hypothesis at this time. Just like I.D. that’s not science, it’s making stuff up to fit what you want to believe. You’ll need to provide some credible evidence and a plausible mechanism for it to be taken as scientifically serious, just as the modern synthesis of evolution already has.

  59. #59 Zetetic
    October 13, 2009

    @ nutheridea:
    One last thing before I have to take off for work…

    Another problem with the “cosmic ancestry” idea, is that you then have a question of the origin of your viruses. Viruses need an organism to be produced (either other cells, or produced by an intelligence) since they can’t reproduce on their own. Either way you then have now introduce the problem of where did they come from?

    If they evolved naturally, then why can’t the same thing happen on Earth too? If they didn’t evolve naturally, then where did their maker come from? Is it “turtles all the way down”?

  60. #60 nutheridea
    October 13, 2009

    Joseph, regarding Villarreal’s assessments, I don’t know how he arrives at them nor do I feel qualified to challenge them. Way over my head. Here is his bio: http://www.lifeboat.com/ex/bios.luis.p.villarreal

    For me, and I’m sorry if this challenges people’s “faith” in the blind watchmaker scenario, it is much, much easier to envision evolution happening with pre-existing code provided as/when needed, as opposed to it needing to be created by impossibly complex random mutations. Fine tuning of the programs, yes. Creation of the programs, sorry– you lose me on that one.

    Favorite Sherlock quote: “When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

  61. #61 nutheridea
    October 13, 2009

    Zetetic, if we are just discussing how humans came to be here on earth, why must we know where life originated in order to answer that? As scientists, we can postulate how a protien is formed without needing to know why a carbon atom exists in the first place. Are we satisfied that we cannot know why matter originated, yet unsatified that we cannot know why life originated?

  62. #62 nutheridea
    October 13, 2009

    To get where I’m going, what say we limit the scope to: are the major jumps in evolution due to “collective random mutations selected for survival over time”, or “existing genes being inserted by viruses then selected for survival”. I submit that not only is there plenty of good evidence building for the latter compared to the former, but that the latter is an exponentially simpler explanation!

  63. #63 Joseph
    October 13, 2009

    For me, and I’m sorry if this challenges people’s “faith” in the blind watchmaker scenario, it is much, much easier to envision evolution happening with pre-existing code provided as/when needed, as opposed to it needing to be created by impossibly complex random mutations.

    @nutheridea: You’ve come up with a god-of-the-gaps argument or, in this case, a virus-of-the-gaps one.

    One could easily say, for example, it seems intuitively impossible that snow flakes could be formed like they are by random natural processes. We don’t know that there isn’t a snow fairy, so we shouldn’t rule it out.

    The basic problem you have is that you have not been able to argue that it’s impossible for an “unsupervised” evolutionary process to produce results. As I’ve explained, unsupervised evolutionary processes are used all the time in computer science, and they just work. Typically there’s no fancy meddling with mutations, and if there were, I bet the program wouldn’t perform very well. The process is what gives you the answer; you don’t know the answer beforehand.

  64. #64 trrll
    October 13, 2009

    Specifically here I’m bringing up the concept that retroviruses possibly travelling great distances through space collectively contain the code that has not just created humans, but many if not all complex life forms on earth. It’s just fun to think about, so don’t get get your undies in a wad everyone.

    A lot of scientists have chewed over the “life from space” idea. The general sentiment is that it is plausible and “fun to think about,” but that it doesn’t really lead anywhere interesting. It doesn’t really answer the most interesting questions, just exports them somewhere else. If life came from somewhere else, we still want to know how it formed there–and the most promising candidate mechanism be a randomization/selection mechanism similar to the ones that we are already studying. Moreover, since we don’t know where “there” is, it just complicates the hypothesis, giving us a much wider range of possible conditions to consider. And we already have more than enough possibilities to consider here on earth: tidal pools, sea vents, etc., etc. As Occam taught us, it is most efficient to test the simpler hypotheses first. The hypothesis of life from space will be more testable once we get some samples of non-earthly life–which if the hypothesis has any merit, should be all over the place.

  65. #65 nutheridea
    October 13, 2009

    Joseph, your computer model makes my point perfectly. A random mutation to the code (random corruption) usually results in an unusable program that crashes. No matter how fast the computer, no matter how long the time given for random corruption to accomplish something usable, Shakespear is never written. A piece of existing dormant code (traits) can be turned on or off through random corruption, yes, but the whole piece of useful code is effectively never written.

    On the other hand, a program that is supplied with various “known good” pieces of code to see if they randomely happen to solve the problem, will eventually stumble upon a piece that works. Genetic programming does not use random curruption, it uses random pieces of known good, pre-supplied code. This code was written by someone.

    Random curruption is the only thing possible in strict Darwinian rules. Panspermia solves this problem.

  66. #66 Joseph
    October 13, 2009

    Genetic programming does not use random curruption, it uses random pieces of known good, pre-supplied code. This code was written by someone.

    That’s not true. You probably read in Wikipedia that genetic programming evolves programs, and you assumed these are programs written by someone.

    In reality, genetic programming typically evolves “DNA,” initially random, like this (though it can be more complicated):

    5 3 1 6 2 4

    A “mutation” might involve swapping two cells at random, e.g.

    5 2 1 6 3 4

    The “fitness” of these sequences is based on some “environment.” If these numbers represent cities in the traveling salesman problem, the “fitness” could be the total distance traveled by the salesman (more distance = less fitness.)

    So you start out with a totally random population of DNA sequences. It can be a fixed population. At each “generation” you select the fittest sequences semi-randomly so they “reproduce” per the mutation process I just described.

    The fitness of the fittest sequence will tend to improve as generations go by. This is self-evident, is it not?

    (There can be some problems, like hitting local maxima, but this just makes the discussion more complicated.)

    The main difference in nature is that the environment changes, so there’s no pre-determined “right answer.”

  67. #67 Zetetic
    October 14, 2009

    notheridea @ #61

    Zetetic, if we are just discussing how humans came to be here on earth, why must we know where life originated in order to answer that?

    Because you’re the one postulating based on nothing more than the fallacy of Argument from Incredulity, and a series of utterly unsubstantiated assumptions, that viruses from space, guided by some vague intelligence, are responsible for the major evolutionary jumps on Earth? It may not have occurred to you, but that would require life to start (and have evolved, unless you want to bring religion into it now too) on it’s own, somewhere else first.

    Once life gets started, regardless of how, evolution needs just reproduction with variation and natural selection to work. Your “cosmic ancestry” though needs not only those two things, but also needs life to have started and evolved elsewhere, and then needs to spread (for some undefined reason by some unspecified mechanism) , to make changes (that somehow just happen to be compatible) with life on another world, in order to even work. Never mind that you haven’t yet offered a shred of evidence that positively supports any of it.

    —————————————————————————————————————————————————

    notheridea @ #62

    I submit that not only is there plenty of good evidence building for the latter compared to the former, but that the latter is an exponentially simpler explanation!

    Setting aside that you’re just brushing off for absolutely no good reason the enormous body of work supporting the various forms of reproduction with variation. The horizontal gene transfer that you were trying to cite as support only involved the transfer of existing genetic code from one species to another. The viruses aren’t creating new traits. They are simply one way, among other types of horizontal gene transfer, for a trait to move from on species to another. Before a trait can be horizontally transferred though, it still must evolve in another species. Horizontal gene transfer, regardless of the mechanism involved, only helps a new trait spread from one species to another, it doesn’t create the new traits in question. Therefore, the idea of viruses creating traits falls flat on it’s face, they just help to move them around. If a transferred trait is helpful, it will spread throughout that species. If the trait causes a problem for the recipient species, it will die off in that species. It still doesn’t change that the trait had to evolve at least one species in the first place. It also doesn’t change that such changes horizontal transfer doesn’t seem to occur in many species (like humans).

    —————————————————————————————————————————————————-

    notheridea @ #65

    Joseph, your computer model makes my point perfectly. A random mutation to the code (random corruption) usually results in an unusable program that crashes.

    Analogy Fail. Sorry to break it to you, but the analogy of comparing DNA to computer code is a very bad and highly inaccurate one. Your argument is just more cdesign proponentsist propaganda. DNA is far more robust and tends to have a great deal of redundancy in it’s structure. If you change one bit directly in a program it will probably crash, if you change one base pair (or even several) you usually have little to no difference in the function of a cell.

    Random curruption is the only thing possible in strict Darwinian rules. Panspermia solves this problem.

    That is an utterly ignorant statement that is flatly contradicted by scientific research into evolution. You’re are also not only ignoring the utter lack of evidence supporting panspermia (unlike evolution), but you are ignoring all of the additional problems that panspermia creates, as has been pointed out to you before.

    ————————————————————————————————————————————————–

    You seem to be under the misunderstanding that mutations are somehow rare or exceptional, they’re not. As and example you notheridea have probably between 100 to 200 mutations (for an average of 150 per person) when compared to the DNA of your parents. Your parents each had the same 100-200 mutations compared to their parents.
    We’re all mutants, say scientists

    ————————————————————————————————————————————————

    You complain about the rest of us being dogmatic, but you are the one making demonstrably false statements, to support a series of utterly unsubstantiated assumptions, based on nothing more that what you want to believe and the fallacy of Argument from Incredulity. Just like the cdesign proponentists, all you have to offer so far are baseless assumptions, logical fallacies, and false attempts to discredit evolution. Your hypothesis fails to advance human knowledge, it fails to provide evidence, it fails to explain all of the evidence, and it fails to provide falsifiable predictions to test it.

    Like I stated (a few times) before, when you can offer credible evidence that positively supports your position, a plausible mechanism, and a means to test it, then it can be regarded as scientific. Until then it’s no more scientific that if someone tried blaming new traits on trans-dimensional “elf-like beings” that just “somehow” added new traits the DNA of various species over time.

  68. #68 Joseph
    October 14, 2009

    Here’s a big problem with the “mutations from space” idea. @nutheridea proposes (as far as I can tell) that viruses from space inject mutations that are already adaptive (as opposed to random) in the Earth’s gene pool. Assuming this is true, it would mean these mutations are adaptive in other planets. How likely is it that a mutation adaptive in planet A would be adaptive in planet B? Even basic things like vision might require different adaptation, based on atmospheric composition and so forth.

    Different environments require different adaptation, so interfering with a “random” evolutionary process would probably hurt and not help.

    Or as Laplace put it: “I have no need of that hypothesis.”

  69. #69 nutheridea
    October 14, 2009

    Horizontal Gene Transfer, when first proposed about 50 years ago, was highly ridiculed as an attack on the accepted idea that new genes were created only by mutations within species in response to survival. With the mapping of genes more recently it has now become obvious and accepted that HGT is not only widespread but perhaps the main driving force in new useful genes to species.

    My “conjecture” is that acceptance of the prevalence of HGT is the first step in solving the problem Darwinism has always had with the mathematical stretch of creating new genes in a species in the first place, much less having to have them created as needed in every step in evolution for every species. The next step is figuring out how (and where) indeed these new genes were created. We haven’t shown yet that a new gene can be created in a natural system. We have theorized it (with math that doesn’t seem to support it), but never shown it.

    There is evidence that seven metazoan genes, including cytochrome C, are about twice as old as the first appearance in the fossil record of the metazoa that express the genes. That doesn’t fit any version of accepted evolutionary theory.

    This is science. We should not be afraid to explore it further for fear that the outcome might not fit our world view.

  70. #70 titmouse
    October 14, 2009

    We haven’t shown yet that a new gene can be created in a natural system. We have theorized it (with math that doesn’t seem to support it), but never shown it.

    Not true. For one example, watch PZ Myers’ recent talk at the AAI regarding tyrosine kinase.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ba2h9tqNYAo&feature=player_embedded

  71. #71 nutheridea
    October 14, 2009

    You are right titmouse, I should have said “we haven’t shown a new gene can be created, unless you count combining existing genes as creating a new gene.”

  72. #72 Zetetic
    October 14, 2009

    notheridea @ #69:

    My “conjecture” is that acceptance of the prevalence of HGT is the first step in solving the problem Darwinism has always had with the mathematical stretch of creating new genes in a species in the first place, much less having to have them created as needed in every step in evolution for every species.

    More denialism on your part. It’s already been repeatedly pointed out to you that issue was long since solved. Additionally new traits have been observed evolving under controlled laboratory conditions. Yet you still insist on denying this, since it conflicts with you baseless “cosmic ancestry” conjecture by rendering it unnecessary.

    Here’s what you’re doing notheridea…You are simply trying to make an Argument from Ignorance fallacy. You seem to need to believe that evolution can’t explain new traits, so you just dismiss the (long since proven) fact that it can. You then use your demonstrably false assertion that the various forms of reproduction with variation can’t create new traits, to make a logically unjustified leap to the assertion that they came from somewhere else.

    You seem to be doing this since you realize that since evolution works, that makes panspermia unnecessary to explain life on Earth. You are still ignoring though, that even if (for the sake of argument) evolution couldn’t explain new traits, that would still do nothing to support your position. Only credible positively supporting evidence can do that, of which your conjecture is considerably lacking.

    These tactics you are employing are the stock and trade of all of the various versions of creationists (YEC and others).
    1) Deny the evidence, see Argument from Incredulity fallacy.
    2) Make baseless assertions.
    3) Make baseless assumptions.
    4) Commit an Argument from Ignorance fallacy to justify your position.
    I find it very telling that you keep using the same arguments, tactics, and fallacies as creationists.

    Additionally, you’re still trying to ignore the question of where the traits came from in the first place.

    We haven’t shown yet that a new gene can be created in a natural system. We have theorized it (with math that doesn’t seem to support it), but never shown it.

    As titmouse has already pointed out, a demonstrably false assertion. Repeating a false statement over-and-over (another creationist tactic) will not make the false assertion true.

    There is evidence that seven metazoan genes, including cytochrome C, are about twice as old as the first appearance in the fossil record of the metazoa that express the genes.

    Assuming for the sake of argument that is correct….It changes nothing. First of all, you may not have noticed but there is large sections of the fossil record missing, especially earlier in Earth’s history and when it comes to organisms without a skeleton or shell. Secondly, all it means is that the trait is older than we thought, that’s all. It doesn’t prove that it came from space.

    That doesn’t fit any version of accepted evolutionary theory.

    Another false assertion on your part, as has already been pointed out. How does a trait being older than we though make it not “fit” evolution? How does a trait being older than was thought prove that it comes from “outer space”? That would be another Argument from Ignorance fallacy.

    ————————————————————————————————————————————————–
    notheridea @ #69:

    This is science. We should not be afraid to explore it further for fear that the outcome might not fit our world view.

    You are still failing to get the point, making false conjectures, and demonstrably false assertions. What we are arguing for is science, what you are arguing is not science.
    Just dismissing credible evidence is not science.
    Making baseless assertions is not science.
    Committing repeated logical fallacies is not science.

    What you are doing notheridea, is trying to argue your position more like it’s a religion, not as science.

    As I had repeatedly stated before…It would be possible for your “cosmic ancestry” to be considered scientific. IF you could provide evidence that it occurred, evidence of viruses be transmitted through space, etc. When horizontal gene transfer was discounted before, it was mainly because it had no supporting evidence before, it was just a baseless hypothesis. What’s different now? E..V..I..D..E..N..C..E. When evolution through natural selection was first proposed, many scientits didn’t support it either, what changed? Again, E..V..I..D..E..N..C..E. Got it?

    Since Panspermia was first proposed it has contributed absolutely nothing to our understanding of life and how it works. The modern theory of evolution, on the other hand, has greatly increased our understanding of life and how it works.

    Since Panspermia was first proposed there has been zero evidence to positively support the theory. For evolution, on the other hand, there has been found enormous amounts of evidence both in the lab and outside of the lab to support it’s position.

    Evolutionary theory has been used to improve grain production and help fight disease. (Among other things.) Panspermia has contributed nothing to these endeavors.

    Now if that should change in the future…Great! I’m all for scientific progress and new understanding. Personally I find the idea of panspermia interesting, but it’s still utterly baseless conjecture. Evolution, on the other hand, is so widely accepted in the biological sciences because it has a great deal of evidence supporting it, in spite of your repeated assertions that it doesn’t.
    So far though, you have failed to provide anything that would make panspermia be considered a scientifically valid theory.

    If panspermia ever gets any evidence to support it (hypothetically), it will be in addition to modern evolutionary theory not in opposition to it. The reason is that the various forms of reproduction with variation have been to well demonstrated under controlled condition. That evidence will not just go away, even if there is evidence to support panspermia. In other words evolution + a boost from panspermia. But so far, that seems unlikely since has been repeatedly pointed out to you, evolution demonstrably doesn’t have the problems that you want to think it does, and it does account for diversity of life on Earth.

  73. #73 Prometheus
    October 14, 2009

    “nutheridea” has an interesting point:

    So it seems to me that what should be taught in school is that creation might have been accidental, or might have been by design– science just doesn’t know yet– and here are the generally most accepted theories for each possibility. Yeah?

    While I realize that most (i.e. nearly all) biologists would approach this issue by showing the massive amount of data supporting evolution by random mutation and selection pressure (as above), I’d like to try a different tack.

    First, we need to deal with the ambiguity of the term “creation”, as used by “nutheridea”. Evolution has nothing to say about the origin of life (here or elsewhere). However, if by “creation”, we mean “origin of species, including humans”, then we can have what I think will prove to be a fascinating discussion.

    Let’s imagine – for a moment – that the species were the result of some sort of intelligent design. This would imply a “designer”, correct? And, as we know, you can tell a lot about a “designer” by their creations. So, if we assume that the species we see currently on Earth were “designed”, they would tell us a lot about the intelligent being that “designed” them.

    Since most supporters of “Intelligent Design” (or its equivalent, the “Teach the Controversy” movement) see humans as the apex of life on this planet, let’s examine this species, which would be – logically – the one that the “designer” spent the most time and effort on.

    Well, the first thing I see is that the “designer” put a quadruped spine in a biped (humans). The spines of other mammals function similar to a suspension bridge, arching gracefully between the front and hind legs – in tension. In humans, this exact same “design” has been upended with no substantive changes.

    Like a suspension bridge, the human/quadruped spine is inherently unstable in this position – in compression – and it takes a series of curves and lots of muscle bracing to prevent collapse. This places a tremendous side-load at the base of the spine, where the lumbar curve is located. Not surprisingly, this is a common point of failure in human spines.

    What about the eye? The eye is often held by ID supporters as being “irreducibly complex”. However, the human eye has the blood vessels and nerves running in front of the light-sensitive cells of the retina. We know that this wasn’t the only possible arrangement because squid and octopi have the blood vessels and nerves of their retinas behind the light-sensitive cells.

    The only reason people don’t contantly notice the shadows cast on their retinas by the blood vessels and nerves is that their brains “post-process” the image to erase the shadows – sort of like “PhotoShopping” the image. Either the “designer” screwed up and put the human (and other mammal) retina in backwards or cephalopods are the “apex of creation”.

    Let’s move on to some biochemical processes. Humans lack an enzyme necessary to make vitamin C, which is why we need it in our diet. The gene for this enzyme is present in the human genome, but it’s “broken” by a large deletion. Oddly enough, the same deletion is found in almost all primates. Guinea pigs have a different deletion that makes them incapable of making vitamin C. Why in creation would the “designer” put a broken gene in our genome? And why the same broken gene in most primates?

    I could go on, but I think that most people get the point.

    So, what does all this tell us about the putative “intelligent designer”? Well, it sounds as though the “designer” was working under a time crunch (six days isn’t very long to “create” the world and all the plants, animals, bacteria, archaea, viruses, fungi, etc. on it).

    This “designer” reminds me of a freshman Engineering student who has run out of time on their semester project. Probably took too much time getting the light and dark separated, making the heavens and the earth, seas, etc. and ran out of time when it came to making humans. Poor time management skills.

    On the other hand, evolution can explain all of these facts without the need for such an inept “creator”.

    So, if people are “OK” with me telling their kids that if there is “intelligent design”, the evidence shows that the designer wasn’t that good at it and didn’t bother to go back and fix obvious mistakes – like a fly-by-night contractor – I’m willing to “teach the controversy”.

    Prometheus

  74. #74 Scott
    October 14, 2009

    Excellent points, Prometheus. I guess ID really ought to be understood to stand for Incompetent Design!

  75. #75 Militant Agnostic
    October 14, 2009

    As someone said on ERV, they must worship Rube Goldberg (or Heath Robinson if you’re British).

  76. #76 nutheridea
    October 14, 2009

    Okay guys and girls, I give up. No one here wants to seriously ponder something plausible, because they think I’m going to say “God” pretty soon! Okay, okay, I admit this was all just for fun to get you all riled up and see how hard you dug in your heels.

    I just have to mention one more thing though in case you missed it… that idiot Stephen Hawking just endorsed panspermia in April. He must not be very bright.. :-)

  77. #77 titmouse
    October 14, 2009

    Ah! A parting argument from authority.

    Still to learn much have you, young padawan.

  78. #78 nutheridea
    October 14, 2009

    And learn I shall. Thanks old dog..

  79. #79 Bill
    October 14, 2009

    Just wanted to say Thanks to nutheridea and all those who joined in the discussion. I have so enjoyed reading this thread the past 2 nights!

  80. #80 Jennifer B. Phillips
    October 15, 2009

    Okay, okay, I admit this was all just for fun to get you all riled up and see how hard you dug in your heels.

    Yes, how hilarious it must be to see people stubbornly clinging to the validity of the scientific method. LOL.

    that idiot Stephen Hawking just endorsed panspermia in April.

    Um, no.
    He discussed the plausibility of this and other theories of the origins of life on earth as part of a talk in April 2008 endorsing space exploration. So much for argument from authority. And before you trot out Richard Dawkins as your next celebrity cpanspermia proponentist, I’d encourage you to carefully review the context of his remarks on this topic.

  81. #81 Zetetic
    October 15, 2009

    nutheridea @ #76

    No one here wants to seriously ponder something plausible, because they think I’m going to say “God” pretty soon!

    Why do you think I brought up the question of the origin of your space viruses? I tried to give you a chance to show that it wasn’t your intent, but you remained curiously silent on the problem.

    There’s a reason why the cdesign proponentists often trot out arguments like “cosmic ancestry” as a “secular I.D. alternative” to evolution. It’s because they know that it as soon as you ask where the introduced genetic material comes from, they’re going to bring it back to their god. Why? Because one you accept the assumption that life can’t evolve naturally, then the new material must ultimately have a “divine origin”.

    Okay, okay, I admit this was all just for fun to get you all riled up and see how hard you dug in your heels.

    That’s very funny and more than a little dishonest of you. You’re the only one digging in your heels here. As for us getting riled up, you seem to have an overinflated opinion of yourself, all you’ve offered us is some mild entertainment as a grade school level intellectual target incapable of offering a serious challenge.

    Being open minded doesn’t mean just accepting what isn’t generally accepted, it means being open to contrary evidence, viewing it objectively, and being open to the possibility that you’re wrong. I’ve told you repeatedly what it would take to make your conjecture a scientifically valid position, worthy of being in biology classes. Yet you failed to provide a single logical argument or piece of positively supporting evidence.

    Why should any objective person accept as plausible an hypothesis that is not only highly improbable, but unnecessary, unsubstantiated, and based on nothing more that logical fallacies centered around obviously deliberate lies about the competing theory (evolution)?

    Even your “goodbye” reference was not only a logical fallacy (as pointed out by titmouse), but was yet another deliberate lie (as pointed out by Jennifer B. Phillips)! While you, when presented positive evidence that your assertions about evolution were fallacious, either were silent about it or tried to play definition games about it (more creationist tactics).

    Throughout the entire discussion the only one that was acting in a dogmatic and closed minded manner was yourself nutheridea. You’ve dogmatically ignored and rejected (out-of-hand) any evidence that was contrary to your position. You’ve never once admitted that you were wrong even when conclusively show your errors. Why should we consider such an argument as valid until you can do better?

    Q: So how does that translate into us digging in our heels?
    A: It doesn’t. You’re just projecting (yet another creationist tactic).

    Goodbye.
    ;-)

  82. #82 nutheridea
    October 16, 2009

    Dammit Zetetic! AHHHHH! Okay, let me calm down and reply somewhat intelligently (shutup) tomorrow after a few hours sleep.

  83. #83 nutheridea
    October 16, 2009

    I’m not a creationist. I’m not convinced that neo-Darwinism is wrong, nor that panspermia is right. But I haven’t closed the door on the concept because to me, something doesn’t “feel right” about the generally accepted version of how life began and evolved. Knowing this was a blog (which I thoroughly enjoy reading) primarily about making fun of goofy-ass pseudo-science and psuedo-medicine (and I’m fully on board with that, constantly fighting that battle here at home with my wife and her “colon-cleansers” etc.), I expected to get a ton of crap bringing up something likely to be seen as a perfect target for this blog, and I was prepared to enjoy the ride. Nothing dishonest about that, Zetetic.

    I’ve noticed three basic approaches scientists take when addressing a challenge. And the same scientist may use all three interchangeably, depending on the challenge:

    1. Gather data and science first, conclusions second
    2. Convictions first, data and science second to back those convictions
    3. Gut feeling first, data and science second to find a theory that supports the gut feeling

    #1 is what we think all good scientists use. I believe they are all valid approaches, depending on the challenge at hand. For instance, if someone challenges whether the Earth is round, claiming it is flat, #2 is clearly the most useful and efficient response. When Einstein first challenged classic mechanics, it was because he had a gut feeling, #3, that something wasn’t right with the accepted Newtonian mechanics at the time, but had no math to back it up until much later (and of course was ridiculed by scientists using #2 for the idea until he eventually produced sufficient math).

    When Wegener first proposed the continental drift theory, he had nothing but a gut feeling to go on, scant evidence and no theory for the mechanics behind it. He was perhaps the most ridiculed scientist of the past couple hundred years. Dr. Rollin T. Chamberlin of the University of Chicago said, “Wegener’s hypothesis in general is of the footloose type, in that it takes considerable liberty with our globe, and is less bound by restrictions or tied down by awkward, ugly facts than most of its rival theories.” Clearly in this example you see Wegener taking #3 approach, while Chamberlin is taking #2.

    Perhaps most major scientific breakthroughs start out as #3, get ridiculed by entrenched scientists with #2, and eventually get vindicated with #1. This includes Darwin’s origin of species theory, of course.

    What’s really fun is when half the scientists take #2 on an issue, and the other half also take #2, with no one ever bothering to do the #1 part. READ: Global Warming

    So, I have a gut feeling that something isn’t right with the generally accepted version of how life began and evolved. Panspermia may hold some promise from my perspective. There isn’t yet enough (but there is far more than “none”) evidence to support that particular theory, but I’m choosing to leave the door open on that one. You can choose to do what you want– I’m certainly not telling you how you must think. I hope you agree that there is room for, and indeed necessity of, “gut feelings” in true scientific endeavors.

  84. #84 Scott
    October 16, 2009

    #1 is what we think all good scientists use. I believe they are all valid approaches, depending on the challenge at hand.

    Then you believe wrongly.

    For instance, if someone challenges whether the Earth is round, claiming it is flat, #2 is clearly the most useful and efficient response.

    Not at all; #1 has simply already been completed.

    When Einstein first challenged classic mechanics, it was because he had a gut feeling, #3, that something wasn’t right with the accepted Newtonian mechanics at the time, but had no math to back it up until much later (and of course was ridiculed by scientists using #2 for the idea until he eventually produced sufficient math).

    Not really true, actually. The math pointing to relativity was already established – Maxwell’s equations. When you calculate the speed of light based on Maxwell’s equations you get c – not “c relative to X”, just c. The prevailing belief at the time was that this demonstrated Maxwell’s equations to be incomplete, as all speeds must be relative to a particular frame of reference. What Einstein did was consider what would happen if the answer really WAS just c.

    The problem was recognized and clear – no “gut feeling” about it. The genius lay in recognizing that there was an alternate solution to the problem.

  85. #85 Prometheus
    October 16, 2009

    “Nutheridea” comments:

    “When Einstein first challenged classic mechanics, it was because he had a gut feeling…”

    No. Not a “gut feeling” – it was an unexplained phenomenon.

    What started Einstein on his path were some features of the photoelectric effect, which could not be explained by classical physics. It was, in fact, his work on the photoelectric effect that got him the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics.

    The inaccuracy continues:

    “When Wegener first proposed the continental drift theory, he had nothing but a gut feeling to go on, scant evidence and no theory for the mechanics behind it.”

    Again, no. It wasn’t a “gut feeling”, it was a series of unexplained findings.

    What started Wegner thinking about continental drift was the presence – on two continents separated by oceans – of fossils and rock types that were identical in age and composition and different from nearby fossils and rocks. He then noticed that when you fit the continents back together, not only did the outlines join like a jigsaw puzzle, but these anomalous fossils and rocks were put in contact, as well.

    The fact that some scientists of the age didn’t agree with their hypotheses wasn’t taken by either Einstein or Wegener as a “conspiracy” or “inflexible dogma” – they both knew (even at the time) that their hypotheses needed data to support them.

    Fortunately for Einstein, it was much easier to design experiments to test his hypotheses about the photoelectric effect than it was for Wegener to come up with experiments to test his hypothesis. As a result, Einstein’s work was accepted almost immediately (he already had the experimental data to support it), while Wegener’s hypothesis waited years to be supported by data. However, once there was data that supported Wegener’s hypothesis, it was accepted.

    There is a popular belief that “science” routinely rejects new ideas because they clash with “established dogma”. The truth is much more prosaic.

    When there is an result or phenomena that has been widely observed and validated yet remains unexplained (or poorly explained) by existing theories (note: a “theory” is a hypothesis that has been extensively tested and validated), a new idea that can take all of the known facts and explain them usually receives a lot of interest.

    However, when the “phenomenon” hasn’t been widely observed or validated or when the phenomenon is already well-explained by existing theories, a new idea that “explains” the phenomenon (especially if it is contradicted by other observations) isn’t well receieved.

    Thus, evolution was rapidly accepted because it explained observations that “creationism” couldn’t and “intelligent design” isn’t given any respect because there is already a theory (evolution) that explains what we observe and because “intelligent design” doesn’t explain all (or even most) of the data. [Note: "intelligent design" also fails as a hypothesis because it cannot be tested - any questions are answered by "the designer did it that way for a reason".]

    Like a number of people, “Nutheridea” also conflates the concepts of “origin of the species” – which is well-explained by evolution (which he/she calls “Darwinism”, as if it were a religion or philosophy) – and “origin of life”, which is still a very active area of debate.

    While there is little data supporting any of the current “origin of life” hypotheses, there is no data supporting the creationism/”intelligent design” explanation of the origin of life. “Panspermia” is also a failure as an “origin of life” hypothesis because it simply changes where life originated without even attempting to explain how.

    Prometheus

  86. #86 nutheridea
    October 16, 2009

    Well written Prometheus. If I wasn’t so stubborn, and hadn’t a lifetime’s experience of so many “unexplained findings” (what I called gut feelings) of mine turn out to be accurate in the end, I’d take this opportunity to admit I am wrong, hang my hat fully on the existing accepted origin of the species science, and move on to other areas of interest.

    I will tell you all that I am at least leaning more that direction than I was when I started on this thread! So, um, thanks!

  87. #87 Zetetic
    October 18, 2009

    @ nutheridea:
    LOL!
    If you read my posts more carefully you’ll see that I merely compared your behavior to that of creationists, I never actually said you were one. Your “antics” are exactly the same as what creationists use, whether that was intentional or not is irrelevant, since they’re still just as invalid. That was my point.

    I find it amusing though that you seem to have reacted rather strongly to my little game comparing your arguments to the same ones used by creationists. While you were trying to have fun with us, I was having fun with you.

    For me, pointing out the flaws in your reasoning was just some light practice, and a way to pass some time. As I pointed out earlier, you seem to be under the mis-impression that we took you more seriously than we actually did.

    As I said earlier, what was dishonest of you (aside from the arguments used) was claiming that we are “digging in” (as you did claim of us) for simply responding rationally to your arguments defending panspermia. From the start I told you that I had no problem with the idea of panspermia, but that you had to make a valid case to defend it as a scientifically valid proposition. Frankly, I think it would be cool if it was true, although I find panspermia both unlikely and unnecessary. Instead, you just made series of fallacies and false assertions attacking evolution, and not positively supporting the panspermia position itself.

    It was your bad arguments and lack of evidence that we (or at least some of us, I don’t want to speak for everyone) were rejecting, not the position itself. Perhaps you didn’t understand the difference between rejecting bad arguments, and rejecting an entire position?

    Do you really want to try challenge people’s dogmatism, not just play at it by provoking a reasonable rejection of bad arguments? Then don’t challenge them in areas where there is clear evidence for the other position and a lack of positively supporting evidence for your side, like what you tried here. Don’t try to argue positions were the only arguments you can make are logical fallacies, such as was done here. Try bringing up subjects were you can make a logical argument for a contrary position, or subjects where you side is positively supported by credible evidence.

    ————————————————————————————————————————————————

    nutheridea @ #86:

    If I wasn’t so stubborn, and hadn’t a lifetime’s experience of so many “unexplained findings” (what I called gut feelings) of mine turn out to be accurate in the end, I’d take this opportunity to admit I am wrong, hang my hat fully on the existing accepted origin of the species science, and move on to other areas of interest.

    Interesting…Yet you accused us of digging in our heels! What was I saying before about projection? LOL!

    It seems that you’re saying that since you are sometimes able to make the correct decision by “gut feelings” that you can dismiss one position and adopt another, for no valid reason? I suspect, that if you are being truthful about that, then there is more than a little cognitive bias at work in that statement.

    Go..Go…Dunning-Kruger Effect!

    Oh well…thanks for the laughs. Please, just try to be more mindful of your own apparent tendency to “dig in” rather than objectively view the evidence (or lack there of).
    ;-)

  88. #88 Prometheus
    October 20, 2009

    “Nutheridea” responds:

    If I wasn’t so stubborn, and hadn’t a lifetime’s experience of so many “unexplained findings” (what I called gut feelings) of mine turn out to be accurate in the end, I’d take this opportunity to admit I am wrong, hang my hat fully on the existing accepted origin of the species science, and move on to other areas of interest.

    OK, I think.

    Now I’m not so sure that “nutheridea” isn’t spoofing me – either that, or he doesn’t “get it” that what he just said made him out to be a fool. So, it’s either sophisticated humor or utter idiocy. I can’t tell which.

    On the chance that “nutheridea” didn’t “get it”, the point of my comment was that Einstein and Wegener didn’t have “a gut feeling” that “something wasn’t right” about the then-current theories in their field. What they did have was a plausible explanation for some otherwise inexplicable findings (real observations, not vague “feelings” that “something isn’t right”).

    In Einstein’s case, he was able to carry out experiments that tested his hypothesis and showed that he was right. In Wegener’s case, the data that supported his hypothesis weren’t available until well after his death, but his hypothesis of “continental drift” was (and is) supported by newer data about the sea floor and movement of the continental plates.

    Just having a “gut feeling” about something isn’t good enough – you need to come up with a testable hypothesis and then go after data that tests it. Evolution has been tested and found solid. Creationism (AKA “intelligent design”) is untestable because it answers every question with “the designer made it that way for his/her/its own good reasons”.

    Prometheus

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.