Pharyngula

Empedoclean evolution

I must echo Huxley and say, “How stupid of me not to have thought of that!” in response to the discovery of a new mode of evolution. This changes everything!

In an entirely relevant mode of logic, I have noticed that we are suffering with a surprising and rather nasty blizzard today, which was clearly intended for tomorrow. Its appearance today only makes sense if it is Australian, and therefore John Wilkins is responsible for flying over here and shoveling my driveway.

Comments

  1. #1 Darrell
    March 31, 2009

    That’s cheating!

  2. #2 cervantes
    March 31, 2009

    Although this report does indeed appear, as you say, a day early, it’s not 100% fool. There is a grain of truth in it. Bacteria can exchange DNA quite readily across “species,” so much so that it isn’t really clear what a bacterial species is. In fact, they can pick up extracellular DNA. In this way drug resistance, for example, can spread among multi-specific populations.

    As for us eukaryotes, viruses do occasionally move DNA around. It’s not a big deal in the evolutionary scheme of things, but it happens. Enough to be sort of interesting.

  3. #3 AJ Milne
    March 31, 2009

    Well, he had me up until that bit about intelligence being infectious…

    (Idiocy, that I mighta bought.)

  4. #4 Steve
    March 31, 2009

    Hehe, I love the author’s name.

  5. #5 Janine, Insulting Sinner
    March 31, 2009

    On the intertoobz, the day starts before my day begins and ends after my day ends.

  6. #6 E.V.
    March 31, 2009

    What was the name of that professor again? (heheheheheh)

  7. #7 Sastra
    March 31, 2009

    We must all pray — fervently — that the Discovery Institute does not get hold of this surprising new discovery. While the author of the paper claims “the intelligent design argument is entirely shown to be false,” we all know that, if Darwin was wrong, then there’s really only one default.

  8. #8 Chris Davis
    March 31, 2009

    I looks as though New Scientist, far from being embarrassed or contrite over their appalling ‘Darwin Was Wrong’ cover, are going to both run with and wallow in it.

  9. #9 BABH
    March 31, 2009

    I’ve been hoping that YouTube banning JREF was an early April Fool…

  10. #10 AJ Milne
    March 31, 2009

    And what? A blizzard!? (Jumps up and down, waves frantically to the southwest) Here! Send it here! Over here! We. Have. Nothing. Left. To. Ski. On!!

  11. #11 cervantes
    March 31, 2009

    BTW, off topic, but here’s an unusual plea deal. This woman starved her 1-year-old son to death because he wouldn’t say “amen” after prayers. The rest of her cult supported her in this lamentable, but unavoidable decision. She has pled guilty to murder, but only on the condition that she be allowed to withdraw her plea when the child is resurrected. The judge — what a softie — agreed to the condition.

  12. #12 MPG
    March 31, 2009

    Oh please, oh please, oh please let some creationist blog take this seriously. And if it’s Comfort, double bonus.

  13. #13 Glen Davidson
    March 31, 2009

    So it’s showing up in the April 1st New Scientist?

    I don’t know if it’s a joke or not, but lateral transfer is old-hat, and of course the genes being transferred have to actually evolve prior to being transferred.

    Natural selection appears a likely large factor in origination, and, certainly, in keeping the “good transfers.”

    It’s either hype or a joke.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  14. #14 Blake Stacey
    March 31, 2009

    Check the author list. ;-)

  15. #15 The Mad LOLScientist, FCD
    March 31, 2009

    I hope to Ceiling Cat that your blizzard/storm stays away from here at least until tomorrow. I want to see the space station!

  16. #16 Ranson
    March 31, 2009

    @ AJ:

    Terry Pratchett said something along the lines of, “An education was a bit like a communicable sexual disease. It made you unsuitable for a lot of jobs and then you had the urge to pass it on.”

    That’s as plausible as transmitting idiocy… ;)

  17. #17 Otto
    March 31, 2009

    University of Münchhausen in Germany

    Yay! A very famous institution!

    MPG/#12, I hope so much your prayer will get answered.

  18. #18 dreikin
    March 31, 2009

    Funny enough, I’m in south Florida, and we’re having a hail storm..

    It seems Mother Nature is Australian. Figures, that’s where drop bears and the other deadliest critters live.

  19. #19 Glen Davidson
    March 31, 2009

    Well, I guess it’s more obviously a joke than my cursory glance revealed to me.

    Trouble is, we do get this kind of junk from people like Lynn Margulis.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  20. #20 BJ
    March 31, 2009

    Did you see the breadcrumbs at the top of the screen? This article was posted under “Humor”. For. A. Reason.

  21. #21 Hank Fox
    March 31, 2009

    “G. Samsa” is on the author list! That bastard!

    The truth is, Garfield Mark Logan was an undergrad who did most of the work, but Professor Samsa took credit for it.

  22. #22 Randomfactor
    March 31, 2009

    I’m sure the real work was done by that Samsa guy. But there’s something about him that still bugs me.

  23. #23 Sandi Hj
    March 31, 2009

    Dr. Rillful must be a colleague of Dr. I. Lirpa whose annual contributions to Audio Magazine have been so helpful over the years.

  24. #24 DJ
    March 31, 2009

    I’m almost ashamed to admit he had me going there for a minute. lol

  25. #25 Didac
    March 31, 2009

    Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is a fact. Of course, vertical gene transfer is the most common way of gene transfer. However, HGT is one of the explanation of the occurrence of toxins in enterobacteria (e.g. Shiga toxin). Other example of HGT is the origin of chloroplasts and mitochondria. So, the actual tree of life may be a bit more complex than we used to assume. Genome barriers do exist, yes, and linneage integrity (Weissman barrier included) is largely preserved (specially in pluricellular animals). But the idea of a Pan-Genome (i.e. Genosphere) is not an Empedoclean imagination.

  26. #26 F
    March 31, 2009

    I see an opening for a new paper – take it back a step and explain how there were multiple species in the first place, between which lateral gene transfer could occur. (Without recourse to a “god did it” escape clause.)

    Nice article. I’m a bit of a fan of fake science humour.

  27. #27 J. D. Burton
    March 31, 2009

    Prof. Augustus P. Rillful looks an awful lot like Peter Grünberg, co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Physics.

  28. #28 blf
    March 31, 2009

    Further evidence that Mother Nature is a fecking aussie is it’s pissing with rain here in South France, and is forecast to continue to do so for the rest of the week.

    Actually, this is probably a good thing. But it’s fun to complain about aussies. What else are the convicts’ fecking fault…? ;-)

  29. #29 Taz
    March 31, 2009

    Oh please, oh please, oh please let some creationist blog take this seriously. And if it’s Comfort, double bonus.

    So THAT’S how males and females managed to evolve in parallel.

  30. #30 AJ Milne
    March 31, 2009

    What else are the convicts’ fecking fault…?

    Ken Ham?

    /Obvious.

  31. #31 Religion? Brand Brain Staples
    March 31, 2009

    I knew it all along! Clearly this is how Spider Man got his super-powers.

    …bloody international date line, ambushing me like that… I’ll get you next year, date line! Next year! *shakes fist*

  32. #32 MScott
    March 31, 2009

    #21:

    Wait, what? Someone please explain the Titans – Kafka connection to me.

  33. #33 Wayne Robinson
    March 31, 2009

    Samsa, G? Wasn’t that the Gregor Samsa, the hero of Kafka’s “Die Verwandlung” (“Metamorphosis”)?

  34. #34 MSex
    March 31, 2009

    The GTAA (Gene Transcription Association of America) warns that such lateral transfer of genetic material between unlicensed species is illegal and all violators will be persecuted to the full extend of the law.

  35. #35 frog
    March 31, 2009

    cervantes: As for us eukaryotes, viruses do occasionally move DNA around. It’s not a big deal in the evolutionary scheme of things, but it happens

    Aren’t the ERV genes that allow mammals to survive in placenta viral genes that were transmitted into the ancestral form? That’s pretty big in the evolutionary scheme of things, I’d say.

    The joke is in a putative conflict, not in the irrelevancy of horizontal transmission. That’s still an open area of research.

  36. #36 Hank Fox
    March 31, 2009

    MScott: I made the Titans-Kafka in-joke, just riffing on the idea of “metamorphosis.” Gregor Samsa changed into a roach in Kafka’s Metamorphosis, the Teen Titans’ Beast Boy metamorphoses into any critter.

  37. #37 Steve
    March 31, 2009

    Wow, just think of all the chicken-Americans there would be in the South, and up here in MT, folks might be a bit, ummm, wooly.

    Seriously, in higher forms, exchanging DNA like they are suggesting would be a disease mechanism, wouldn’t it? I mean, the host body’s immune system would go ape-scat over the attempted hybrid…

  38. #38 Higamous Hogamous
    March 31, 2009

    I was going to post a comment over there too,
    but I would never get those 7 hours back.

  39. #39 Randomfactor
    March 31, 2009

    Wasn’t similar research published several years ago by some guy named Brundle?

  40. #40 marcus
    March 31, 2009

    Great! In the same vein as this and the horrible “Darwin was Wrong!” article in the “New Scientist” I am preparing my article for “Physics Today” entitled “Newton Was Full of Shit”. In this exciting new world-view I explain that gravity isn’t what cause things to stay on the Earth, it is “Love” or as I’m going to call it “Romantic Attraction”(tm). Like “intelligent design” my theory posits that connection to the Earth doesn’t just happen, it is Earth’s love for us that keeps us close. This also explains why I weigh 200lbs, it isn’t that I am fat it is just that the Earth loves me so much. The Earth and Moon, of course, are in a love restricted relationship, much like I experience with my wife’s best friend, I can get close, but only so close without risking obliteration (or castration as we call it). I don’t have all the details worked out but when I’m done I expect to have a completely viable theory that will be just as respectable Newton’s, I mean they’re all just theories, right? I soon hope to present marcus’s 1st Law of Dynamic Passion.

  41. #41 The Biologista
    March 31, 2009

    Too soon! Too soon!

  42. #42 Cappy
    March 31, 2009

    Had me going for a bit. Couldn’t figure out the date thing in the comments and then, DUH, International Date Line! Too often one assumes EVERYBODY lives in America. Sorry.

  43. #43 Muffin
    March 31, 2009

    “Münchhausen”? That was a dead give-away.

  44. #44 nothing's sacred
    March 31, 2009

    Well, he had me up until that bit about intelligence being infectious…

    Uh, “the present theory of evolution is entirely false” didn’t ring any alarm bells? While elements can be mistaken, for the whole theory be false, all previous observations must be erased from history. And it just piles on from there — does “A.P. Rillful” sound like a real name to you?

  45. #45 nothing's sacred
    March 31, 2009

    OTOH, AJ Milne was probably pulling my leg. Oops. No one could overlook a forehead-smacker like “Journal of Evolutionary Diversions, the major journal in the field”.

  46. #46 nothing's sacred
    March 31, 2009

    “Münchhausen”?

    Where they study paragenetics.

    That was a dead give-away.

    It’s hard to find a line in that piece that isn’t, down to the authors in the citation.

  47. #47 JMk2
    March 31, 2009

    I understand, however, that this discovery might explain the enormous success Swiss plant breeders have had in the last hundred years or so in improving the cultivated varieties of the spaghetti tree …

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SyUvNnmFtgI.

  48. #48 nothing's sacred
    March 31, 2009

    Couldn’t figure out the date thing in the comments

    I guess PZ’s “In an entirely relevant mode of logic, I have noticed that we are suffering with a surprising and rather nasty blizzard today, which was clearly intended for tomorrow. Its appearance today only makes sense if it is Australian” was for nought. He announced up front what this was and people still didn’t get it. Back to that line about atheists not necessarily being intelligent …

  49. #49 black wolf
    March 31, 2009

    #12,
    I have done my best to get it rolling…

  50. #50 Mariana Cirne
    March 31, 2009

    @ 12

    I keep waiting for some biologists to pull a “Sokal’s prank” type thing on them. I’m sure it can be done.

  51. #51 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 31, 2009

    Just repeating comments 3, 12 and 22.

  52. #52 AJ Milne
    March 31, 2009

    OTOH, AJ Milne was probably pulling my leg…

    …In fairness, however, there probably should be some rule about how many layers of sarcastic misdirection may be attempted at once. Just for the net, at least…

    What can I say. I just got greedy for a punchline.

  53. #53 Marshall Nelson
    March 31, 2009

    “I must echo Huxley and say, “How stupid of me not to have thought of that!” in response to the discovery of a new mode of evolution. This changes everything!”

    Many a truth is spoken in jest.

    Bacteria rapidly acquire whole metabolic pathways by the horizontal transfer of multiple genes. The genes necessary for a given pathway may be contributed from more than one species. This conclusion comes from research by two Japanese specialists in computational biology and information systems. Using a new computer algorithm to study ancient bacterial evolution, the pair observed 379 “acquired pathways” requiring three to eight genes. Apparently, most were transferred several times.

    The analysts were especially interested to know if any pathways were “novel” in the recipient species. They decide that some were. They propose, “Novel pathway evolution may be facilitated by bidirectional horizontal gene transfers in prokaryotic communities.”

    Evidence indicates that the transfers occurred rapidly. This could explain how pathways lacking a required gene might avoid being degraded by random mutations.

    In sum, the research yielded four findings:

    1. “Pathways have grown beyond the random acquisition of individual genes,
    2. “obstacles to pathway acquisition would be overcome by the rapid acquisition of genes that would function cooperatively,
    3. “this rapid evolution was due to massive horizontal transfers as gene groups, and
    4. “the original acquisition of the pathways seems to have occurred more contemporaneously than expected across different phylogenetic clades.”

    The acquisition of new genetic programs among prokaryotes appears to depend entirely on horizontal gene transfer (HGT). This new research demonstrates even more about the effectiveness of bacterial gene transfer. We think horizontal gene transfer has profound implications for evolutionary theory.

    A tip of the Hatlo hat to Brig Klyce
    (www.panspermia.org)

    http://www.plosgenetics.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pgen.1000402

  54. #54 Glen Davidson
    March 31, 2009

    Here’s something that sounds like a joke, but it’s Densye O’Leary, so it’s far more likely that she believes that Owen and H.G. Wells were important evolutionists:

    A recent article in Cracked, discussing plagiarism, used the careers of Richard Owen and H.G. Wells – both important evolutionists – as 40% of ?Five Great Men who Built Their Careers on Plagiarism.?

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/evolutionists-careers-built-on-plagiarism/

    Sure, Owen who denied evolution as long as he could, and a writer. As impressive as always, I see, Denyse.

    True, Owen did show that design (of any kind that we have ever observed) is not the basis for life’s structures. That’s not the same as being an evolutionist, however, since he first went with sort of a modified “theory of forms.” Which, by the way, is unscientific, but not as pig-ignorantly opposed to the evidence as ID is.

    I guess Wells is there because Denyse really has no ability to distinguish between writers and scientists. Explaining her many stupid posts about science and scientists.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  55. #55 Snowbird
    March 31, 2009

    I was busting a gut…until I started wondering if some creotards weren’t going to start using this as a real argument. If they use their normal MO, they’ll leave out the part that says this theory totally disproves ID.

  56. #56 Ichthyic
    March 31, 2009

    A recent article in Cracked

    so this is where the Canadian Cow is currently doing her “research”?

    LOL

    next she’ll be citing scholarly articles from “The Onion”.

  57. #57 Euan
    March 31, 2009

    I did fall for this, mainly because one of my own lecturers did use the example of horizontal gene to claim he was a Lamarckianist as it’s an example of an acquired trait.

  58. #58 Marc Abian
    March 31, 2009

    Australia seems to be having all the fun.

    http://www.livenews.com.au/home/scientology-and-atheism-unite-sexy-worldwide-demonstrations-scheduled/2009/4/1/201431

    In an historic move, the surging Global Atheist Movement has officially joined forces with the controversial Church of Scientology to form a new organisation, 1Truth, capable of taking on the world?s major religions.

    Today senior officials from both groups signed off an historic ?Declaration of Truth? in simultaneous events held in New York, Tokyo, Paris, Brasilia and Nairobi.

    Scientology is well known for its effective PR machine ? with the Church signing up any number of superstars including Tom Cruise, John Travolta and ? reportedly – Will Smith.

    Mr McGee says the publicity campaign planned for the launching of 1Truth will be something special.

    ?The internal kicker will be mass nude demonstrations across 136 nations,? he revealed.

    ?In Sydney alone we have signed up 20,000 participants to our Facebook group and it only launched at midnight.

    ?We?re encouraging 1Truth practioners to shake off dusty old sexual ?morality? handed down by generations of irrational religious hoaxes.

    ?We want 250,000 nude in the streets of Sydney doing whatever comes naturally.

  59. #59 Mike
    March 31, 2009

    Have the creotards grabbed on to it already

    This will totally blow you away. Evolutionists were wrong, creationists were wrong, IDists were wrong… and apparently, Empedocles was right.

    http://scienceblogs.com/evolvingthou…transfer_s.php

    The work will be published in tomorrow’s issue of New Scientist. This totally changes everything. I think we owe some of our creationist posters an apology for the flaws in our theory that they have been legitimately pointing out over the years.

    I suspect that Professor Augustus P. Rillful, who headed up the research team, will be getting a Nobel prize for this one.

    http://www.christiandiscussionforums.org/v/showthread.php?t=164130

  60. #60 nothing's sacred
    March 31, 2009

    In fairness, however, there probably should be some rule about how many layers of sarcastic misdirection may be attempted at once. Just for the net, at least

    In addition, there’s the sad fact that some people didn’t get that it was a joke until they read the comments. I think they must go about reading text in a very different way than I do — taking Evelyn Wood too seriously, perhaps?

  61. #61 rumleech
    March 31, 2009

    They nearly had me going ther, the buggers.

  62. #62 nothing's sacred
    March 31, 2009

    Have the creotards grabbed on to it already.

    Did you actually read anything there? Those aren’t creotards.

  63. #63 Norman Doering
    March 31, 2009

    Symbiogenesis, Dr. Lynn Margulis came up with that I thought.

  64. #64 Breakfast
    March 31, 2009

    Epic science trolling.

  65. #65 Breakfast
    March 31, 2009

    And I really, really, really hope he isn’t lying about New Scientist. THAT would be the epickest science trolling of all.

  66. #66 nothing's sacred
    March 31, 2009

    Epic cluelessness, rather.

  67. #67 fusilier
    March 31, 2009

    @Mike (#59)

    Check out Comassion’s avatar at CARM. He’s one of the good guys.

    fusilier
    James 2:24

  68. #68 Pierce R. Butler
    March 31, 2009

    Didac @ # 25: Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is a fact. Of course, vertical gene transfer is the most common way of gene transfer.

    How boringly two-dimensional. When are we going to see research into gene transfer along the z-axis?

  69. #69 Polyester Mather DD
    March 31, 2009

    Munchausen Universitat is seeking to reduce the carbon footprint of its Empedoclean fire by offering online degrees in Proximity Syndromatics

  70. #70 C Murdock
    March 31, 2009

    Umm… so is this seriuos or not? I’m getting really confused and frustrated by the many layers of sarcasm everybody seems to be putting into their comments. I don’t see how the hell genes can pass between species, ever..

  71. #71 John S. Wilkins
    March 31, 2009

    Thenk yew, thenk yew. You’ve been a wonderful audience…

  72. #72 John Morales
    March 31, 2009

    In addition, there’s the sad fact that some people didn’t get that it was a joke until they read the comments.

    That kind of makes it a good April Fool’s. cf. #70, also Spaghetti tree.

  73. #73 PZ Myers
    March 31, 2009

    I STILL NEED MY DRIVEWAY SHOVELED, JOHN.

  74. #74 Sven DiMilo
    March 31, 2009

    Well so Wilkins’s linked post is a joke, a made-up article making drily over-the-top fun of New Scientist‘s cover headline (“Darwin Was Wrong!”) for a recent article on horizontal gene transfer.

    But yeah, horizontal gene transfer is real. It’s now pretty clear that bacteria have been swapping genes around between species (because between individuals of different species) a fair amount for billions and billions of years. Some bacteria can and do take up bare DNA from their environments and tack it into their own genome, and there are little DNA molecules called plasmids that get passed around in a similar way. Viruses can move DNA from one cell to another too. There are some pretty interesting cases even in animals: bacterial genes originally part of the mitochondrial genome have been incorporated into nuclear chromosomes. There’s a sea-slug that eats algae and steals their chloroplasts without digesting them, and apparently some algal chloroplast genes have become nuclear in the slugs. Tunicates may have picked up the cellulose-synthesis enzyme(s) from algae.
    Does anybody know about chitin? It has occured to me that the chitin-synthesis enzyme(s) could have gotten into an ancestor of arthropods, annelids, and mollusks from fungi.

    [By the way, there's no reason to think that chunks of DNA moved from one species to another should consist of a single gene; whole linked pathways or just a fragment of a gene or junk are all possibilities.]

    BUT none of this is a challenge in any way to regular old evolutionary theory. Horizontal introductions of new genetic material is a (particularly interesting) method of introducing variation, just as mutation is (it might be thought of as a type of insertion mutation). Once a chunk of new DNA gets into (presumably) an individual, it has to spread to a whole population by either selection or drift.

  75. #75 SC, OM
    March 31, 2009

    also Spaghetti tree.

    Holy cow! I remember that from when I was a kid (it was brilliant), and tried in vain to find the video last AFD! Is it available now?

  76. #76 Twisted_Colour
    April 1, 2009

    Its appearance today only makes sense if it is Australian, and therefore John Wilkins is responsible for flying over here and shoveling my driveway

    Sorry, but it’s 30 degrees (real degrees, not that voodoo, cricket chirruping crap you Yanks use) and sunny with some evening showers in Brisbane today. I don’t think you’ll be able to get John to move his god-bothering arse.

  77. #77 John Morales
    April 1, 2009
  78. #78 nothing's sacred
    April 1, 2009

    That kind of makes it a good April Fool’s.

    “good” as in “effective at tricking people”. But it clearly wasn’t intended to be … starting with tagging it “Fiction” and “Humor”. In any case, I wasn’t talking about it.

  79. #79 Peter Ashby
    April 1, 2009

    And aside from the other clues, there will not be a 1 April issue of NS this year. NS is published on Thursdays meaning this weeks will be 2 April. Not to mention that they did this with the infamous ‘Darwin was wrong’ cover issue already.

  80. #80 Marc Abian
    April 1, 2009

    No talk about horizontal gene transfer is complete without a trip to Agrobacterium tumefaciens lane…

    This bacterium injects DNA into plant cells which cause the plant to produce nutrients that the bacteria uses. It also gives the plant a form of cancer so the cells producing nutrients will proliferate.
    Puts whiny talk about crossing a species barrier in perspective yes?

  81. #81 Louis
    April 1, 2009

    I’m wondering if the department at the University of Münchhausen, from where this highly informative study was published, is one of the two proxy departments of the School of Biological Sciences there…

    Louis

  82. #82 eddie
    April 1, 2009

    All of you with the “ah, lnternational dateline” schtick are quite mistaken.
    Recent legislation in Oz has ruled that, as of 2009, March has only 30 days.

  83. #83 amphiox
    April 1, 2009

    #68: I’m thinking here that the z-axis would have to be sex with aliens.

    We’ll have to find some aliens first.

  84. #84 Ryan
    April 1, 2009

    I fell for it for about thirty seconds.

  85. #85 Pierce R. Butler
    April 1, 2009

    amphiox @ # 83: … sex with aliens.

    We’ll have to find some aliens first.

    Now if that’s not a good reason to increase NASA funding, what is?

  86. #86 Mbee
    April 1, 2009

    Great April Fools joke in so many ways.

    I bet it won’t make it very far though as the creotards will either believe it (I wish) or won’t think it very funny. They don’t seem to have much of a sense of humor. After all there aren’t many (any?) jokes in the Bible. Although you could say the whole Bible is a joke?

  87. #87 Marc Abian
    April 1, 2009

    @Mbee #86

    Actually there is at least one I remember.

    Jesus calls Peter the rock upon which he will build his church. Peter in latin means stone or rock. Jesus made a pun.

  88. #88 Pierce R. Butler
    April 1, 2009

    Marc Abian: Jesus made a pun.

    Alas, no. The disciple in question had been named Simon up until JC called him “Rock”, so at most he made a metaphor.

    I’ve read that an Englishwoman a few centuries back started a campaign against humor on the grounds that Jesus never showed any signs of Teh Funny. Rather a pity she never got anywhere – if better known, she’d be a prime source of ironic analogies today.

    Metaphors be with you!

  89. #89 frog
    April 2, 2009

    nothing’s sacred: While elements can be mistaken, for the whole theory be false, all previous observations must be erased from history.

    No — a whole theory can be wrong, but the observations fine — they’ve just been misinterpreted. There’s no direct mapping from observation to theory.

    (almost) All observations of the sun rising and setting are correct. The theory that this is due to the sun “rising” and “setting” is completely incorrect.

  90. #90 frog
    April 2, 2009

    Pierce: Alas, no. The disciple in question had been named Simon up until JC called him “Rock”, so at most he made a metaphor.

    How do you know? It could easily be a joke — an insult — that has been reinterpreted as a “metaphor” by the anachronistic faithful. You’d have to have both the original words and context, and a full immersion in Aramaic culture of the first half of the first century.

    Aka, no one knows whether it was a funny or not. No one knows what most of those passages actually meant to people of the time — just anachronistic re-understandings from many centuries later that are themselves misunderstood in the mists of time.

  91. #91 Pierce R. Butler
    April 2, 2009

    frog: Like any good Pharynguloid minion, I’m starting from the Holy Bible – in this case, Mark 1:16, 3:16, et seq.

  92. #92 nothing's sacred
    April 3, 2009

    No — a whole theory can be wrong, but the observations fine — they’ve just been misinterpreted. There’s no direct mapping from observation to theory.

    You’ve totally missed the point. Of course the observations are fine; duh. But the observations have implications. The sort of evidence supposedly found by this study doesn’t undo the massive morphological, genomic, and fossil evidence that supports the current theory. At most it would introduce anomalies that would require that the theory be augmented.

    (almost) All observations of the sun rising and setting are correct. The theory that this is due to the sun “rising” and “setting” is completely incorrect.

    This is utter nonsense. The sun does in fact rise and set — from any fixed observation point on the surface of the Earth, the sun periodically appears above the horizon, travels in an arc, and disappears below the horizon. But “the sun rises and sets” is not a theory — an explanatory framework — it’s an explanandum for which a theory is needed. And here’s a hint: it could be explained either by a theory in which the Earth is fixed in space or one in which the Sun is fixed in space, but neither of those is accurate. Geocentrism fails not because the Earth isn’t fixed in space, but because it makes explanations of the motions of the other celestial bodies so arcane that one needs to apply Ockham’s Razor.

  93. #93 kingfurniture
    January 17, 2010

    Some bacteria can and do take up bare DNA from their environments and tack it into their own genome.

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