There was a bit of unwarranted controversy in Richard Dawkins’ talk here at the Global Atheist Convention. In the Q&A at the end, one woman got the microphone, declared that she was a believer, announced that she was grateful to a god, and asked the question, “What is DNA? Where did DNA come from?” (and she did not ask in the tone of someone who sincerely wanted an answer to a basic question in biology.) She was loudly but briefly jeered, before Dawkins and the organizers quieted the audience, and then Richard went on to answer the question politely and at length.
Some people felt badly about the audience reaction, and at least one person apologized to her. I don’t and wouldn’t. I think the response was perfect.
The woman seemed to want to trap Dawkins in what she presumably thought was a very clever question, but was actually naive and a waste of the audience’s time. It is good that the audience was not passive, but expressed their opinion of the stupidity of her attempt to sidetrack the conversation, and it is good that the speaker gave her a fair hearing and an honest answer (although, apparently, she did not accept the answer, anyway, not that she would have accepted anything but that “God did it”.) There were a few other instances — I’m thinking particularly of the fellow who pontificated at ridiculous and incoherent length in AC Grayling’s Q&A—where people inappropriately tried to turn their moment in the spotlight into a chance to speechify.
A little incivility is a good thing. That woman was an idiot, and I’m pleased that that was briefly expressed to her by the audience before an honest attempt was made to address her point.
A similar sort of intrusion occurs just about every day in my email, and here’s a recent example. Apparently, this buffoon just stumbled across an article I wrote in 2006 which describes a remarkable human chromosome rearrangement that was still viable, and didn’t understand it…except that he could tell that it was supposed to correct a common creationist misconception which he’d rather not see falsified. So he writes a letter in the standard creationist style, beginning with a dismissal, following with a question that he doesn’t care to see answered anyway, and then rambling off into a completely different point that he copy&pasted from somewhere. Seriously, this is pretty much the typical noise I get from these loons; I don’t bother to reply, because, like the woman at the conference, they won’t listen anyway.
I think it needs more jeering from the audience, though.
Oh, and the weird font size changes and inconsistent paragraph breaks (at least this one used paragraphs!)? Yeah, that’s what he sent me. Please, please, please, creationists, when you write to me, if you must, go into your mail software and make sure it’s sent as plain text, rather than formatted text, which will strip out all your quirky games with fonts. Typographical incompetence seems to be one of the most common symptoms of the brain damage associated with the creationist mind.
Hello just thought with all your confident
propaganda you could demonstrate (not cite) an example of
species change from Chromosome rearrangements
which of cause would be necessary for any theory explaining us being here
“Creationists sometimes try to argue that what we consider straightforward,
well-demonstrated cytological and genetic events don’t and can’t occur: that you
get chromosome rearrangements, or that variations in chromosome number and
organization are obstacles to evolution, making href="http://pharyngula.org/index/weblog/comments/pufferfish_and_ancest ral_genomes/">discussions
of synteny, or the rearrangement of chromosomal material in evolution, an
impossibility. These are absurd conclusions, of course—we see evidence of
chromosomal variation in people all the time.”
“variation in people” what ! they are becoming another life
Question – if the human brain has far more capacity than
is necessary for a lifetime and yet evolutionists say a life form develops
according to need “adaptation” or “Natural selection” should we not be at point
of having a brain with just the capacity we need ?
Robert Birge (Syracuse University) who studies the storage of
data in proteins estimated in 1996 that the memory capacity of the brain was
between one and ten terabytes, with a most likely value of 3 terabytes. Such
estimates are generally based on counting neurons and assuming each neuron holds
1 bit. Bear in mind that the brain has far better algorithms for compressing
certain types of information than computers do. Source
The human brain
contains about 50 billion to 200 billion neurons (nobody knows how many for
sure), each of which interfaces with 1,000 to 100,000 other neurons through 100
trillion (10 14) to 10 quadrillion (10 16) synaptic junctions. Each synapse
possesses a variable firing threshold which is reduced as the neuron is
repeatedly activated. If we assume that the firing threshold at each synapse can
assume 256 distinguishable levels, and if we suppose that there are 20,000
shared synapses per neuron (10,000 per neuron), then the total information
storage capacity of the synapses in the cortex would be of the order of 500 to
1,000 terabytes. (Of course, if the brain’s storage of information takes place
at a molecular level, then I would be afraid to hazard a guess regarding how
many bytes can be stored in the brain. One estimate has placed it at about 3.6 X
10 19 bytes.) Source
The brain has about 100 billion nerve cells, so at least
that many bits (about 10 gigabytes) could be stored, assuming the brain uses
binary logic. But it probably doesn’t do so. Instead, information is believed to
be stored in the many connections that form between the cells. This is a much
larger number: Current estimates of brain capacity range from 1 to 1000
terabytes! It would take 1,000 to 10,000 typical disk drives to store that much
The above about covers current info regarding brain’s capacity
as compared to comp equivalent. Nevertheless, this only scratches the surface of
the brain issue, which seems to be as huge as a nano universe.
I’m not a “creationist” I believe in a creator not “absurd conclusions”
David Staples ( my10 quadrillion (10 16)
synaptic junctions can be my qualifications for having the Gall to reply to a
I will attempt to answer these questions as well as I can, given their inanity.
First, David Staples, you are an ass.
Second, I am in a hotel in Australia, and you are communicating with me via the internet. Yet you will not be satisfied with a citation of some evidence, but want a demonstration of speciation right here? What do you expect me to do, scoop up a couple of populations of marsupial mice, set them to mating, and squeeze the fucking mice through the intertubes to pop out in front of you? Well, all you are going to get from me is a link: here’s a list of observed instances of speciation that includes some examples of variations in chromosome organization that were part of the mechanism of reproductive isolation.
Third, evolution includes a significant and necessary chance component to produce the variation that we see in the world around us. You are here by chance; the oocyte that erupted in your mother’s ovary at the time your father’s sperm was present for conception contained a random half of her genome, while the particular sperm that managed to penetrate that egg was one of billions in the neighborhood, and also contained a random half of your father’s genome. You are a child of chance. And, unfortunately, it looks like you crapped out.
I will also add that evolution is not merely about chance, but also includes a non-random component, selection, which can cull out failures and impose a progressive element of better adaptedness to the environment on the process. Selection is not infallible, however, as we can see by the fact that you are still around, tapping in your semi-illiterate fashion at a computer.
Fourth, you apparently were incapable of comprehending the article that I wrote, which does make me wonder why you are bothering to pester me further. I thought it would be obvious that there is “variation in people” — after all, I am clearly a normal human being, while you are a cretin — and even a cretin ought to be able to notice that Angelina Jolie looks slightly different from Wesley Snipes. The point of my article was that there are also hidden chromosomal variations in people that do not make them members of a different species. So no, they are not turning into another life form.
Fifth, what does your question about the brain have to do with the article you are citing? Are you even capable of sustaining a single coherent thought in your head in the time it takes you to compose a short email message?
Sixth, the human brain does not have far more capacity than is necessary for a lifetime. Case in point: you. You seem to be a bit deficient. I also know that I happen to use my brain as much as I can, and if anything, wish I had a lot more capacity.
Seventh, evolution does not produce individuals with some kind of optimized ideal capacity for a specific condition and situation; it produces viable individuals who are good enough, and chance variation means that some will be less capable in particular situations and others will be more capable. We are also dealing with competing solutions: you, for instance, are a bit of a twit with very little brain, but you might be quite capable of stumbling into an opportunity to reproduce (alas), and that is all that matters to evolution.
Eighth, the brain is big and complicated. Very big and very complicated. So? It evolved. We can find a whole range of brain sizes in the animal kingdom, so we can see the steps that led up to the large organ we have; there is no reason to suppose that we need supernatural explanations to account for its origin, any more than the fact that our brains develop from a single cell to their massive size during development without the assistance of magic or angels.
Ninth, the article you quoted is garbage. It makes the fundamental error of comparing a brain to a lump of binary computer memory; the comparison does not work. Brains are analog, not digital; they compute more than they store; assigning a bit value to whole neurons is nonsensical.
Tenth, I don’t know what you are, but a creator is an absurd conclusion.
Eleventh, you have approximately the same number of synapses as anyone else. The quantity of meat in your head entitles you to no special privileges; we care more about what you can do with it. And all indications are that your three pounds of cranial stuffing have been sadly abused and neglected.