Monday, November 21, 2016

On explaining science to the general public

Many science writers complain about the ability of scientists to explain their work to the general public. The latest example is from Susan Matheson, a science writer with a Masters degree in industrial engineering from Rutgers University (New Jersey, USA). She published the following article in Cell a leading journal in the field of cell biology, biochemistry, and molecular biology.

A Scientist and a Journalist Walk into a Bar…
by Susan Matheson, Cell 167: 1140–1143 (2016)[doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2016.10.051] [ScienceDirect PDF] [link from Susan Matheson]
Who are science journalists, and how can journalists and research scientists work together to improve science communication?
Mathesons begins with an anecdote about a science writer who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2011 for writing about a 4-year-old boy with a rare genetic disease. She concludes,
For which Pulitzer category did the journalists win? The one for explaining stuff. Because it ends up that accurately explaining stuff is difficult.

Science journalists and science writers regularly do just that: they accurately and clearly explain stuff about science in a compelling way for the general public.
I disagree. In my fields of expertise (biochemistry, molecular biology, molecular evolution) this is not what science journalist do regularly. They usually get it wrong.

Later on in the article, Susan Matheson admits this obvious fact when she says ....
Explaining how science operates, describing relevant new findings, and bringing everyone into the conversation is a big job. Unfortunately, journalists regularly get the science wrong or they overdramatize an incremental discovery or they leave out the larger meaning of a discovery. Clearly, science writers can’t do this job alone. So, how can research scientists work with journalists to improve science communication to the general public? Here are some key ways that scientists can help.
So, who's to blame for this sorry state of affairs? Is it the science journalists who regularly get the science wrong or is it the scientists who don't explain things properly?

Clearly, both have to accept some of the blame, especially scientists who also get the science wrong. However, it's the job of professional science writers to see through the hype and the exaggeration and make sure the public understands what's going on. They (science journalists) have to know that science is a human endeavor and, like all things done by fallible humans, mistakes are made. Scientists aren't always motivated by pure science and the need to be accurate.

Matheson offers some advice to scientists to help solve the problem. Here are her three suggestions ...
1. Spend Time with Science Writers

One way for scientists to engage in larger, public conversations is to simply spend time with science journalists. They can look for science writers who cover their area of research and connect with them by commenting on their articles publicly or by contacting them privately. To find science journalists, scientists can read STAT, Quanta Magazine, The Open Notebook, The Last Word on Nothing (a group blog), or Mosaic, a science magazine published by the Wellcome Trust. Scientists can offer to discuss their research specifically or the world of science more generally.
That's not realistic. Scientists have other things on their minds, like surviving in the cutthroat world of grant writing and peer review.

But there's another problem with that approach. It doesn't work. I have commented publicly on many articles to no avail. Elizabeth Pennisi, for example, pays no attention to scientists who tell her she is wrong. I wrote critiques of books by John Parrington (The Deeper Genome), Nessa Carey (Junk DNA), and Siddhartha Mukherjee (The Gene) and so did many other scientists. Those criticisms were accurate but none of those writers will admit they made mistakes.

I have a suggestion for science writers ... spend time with good scientists. Learn about the controversies in a field and cultivate friendships with skeptical scientists who will tell you the truth about a subject rather than just promote their own work.
2. Learn Some Storytelling Skills

Another way research scientists can collaborate with journalists to improve science communication is to learn the craft of storytelling themselves. Scientists can use storytelling tools—narration, a compelling conflict, a personal anecdote, and everyday language—to describe the excitement of a scientific discovery or the frustration of cancer cells “winning” a battle against experimental drugs to make the story memorable.
No, no, no .... Real science is hard. It can't be reduced to mere "storytelling." Take junk DNA for example. It very easy to tell a nice "story" that sounds great to the general public. Here's an example from Nessa Carey's book Junk DNA (p. 3).
One of the biggest shocks when the human genome was completed in 2001 was the discovery that over 98 per cent of the DNA in a human cell is junk. It doesn't code for any proteins.... In genome terms, the ratio of gibberish to text is about four times as high as shown. There are over 50 letters of junk for every one letter of sense.

There are other ways of envisaging this. Let's imagine we visit a car factory, perhaps for something high-end like a Ferrari. We would be pretty surprised if for every two people who were building a shiny red sports car, there were another 98 who were sitting around doing nothing. This would be ridiculous, so why would it be reasonable in our genomes? ...

A much more likely scenario in our car factory would be that for every two people assembling a car, there are 98 others doing all the things that keep a business moving. Raising finance, keeping accounts, publicising the product, processing the pensions, cleaning the toilets, selling the cars etc. This is probably a much better model for the role of junk in our genome. We can think of proteins as the final end points for life, but they will never be properly produced and coordinated without the junk. Two people can build a car, but they can't maintain a company without selling it, and certainly can't turn it into a powerful and financially successful brand. Similarly, there's no point having 98 people mopping the floor and staffing the showrooms if there's nothing to sell. The whole organization only works when all the components are in place. And so it is with our genomes.
Isn't that a lovely story? It's the sort of writing that may win praise and prizes from other science journalists. Trouble is, it's complete bullshit. The truth is far different than the nice story suggests. The truth is that 90% of our genome is junk and this was not a shock to knowledgeable scientists in 2001.

I've been trying to write an accurate account of the story for the past few months and I can assure you there are no simple storytelling ways to do it. The real story about junk DNA is complicated and counter-intuitive and it's hard to explain to the general public why 90% of our genome is completely useless DNA. My problem is complicated by the way science journalists have misrepresented the science over the past few decades. Their insistence on simple, but false, stories, means that the job of explaining the truth is much harder.

My advice to science writers is to keep in mind that the top three requirements for good science writing are: accuracy, accuracy, and accuracy. Never sacrifice accuracy for storytelling. And don't expect scientists to do that either.
3. Speak Directly to the Public

To improve public communication of science, scientists can also speak directly to the public. Specter insists that all scientists should discuss their work with the public on a regular basis, even if it’s basic research. If the research is publicly funded, there needs to be much more openness, he says. “I regularly visit places like the Broad [Institute], Stanford, and NIH, where researchers are making remarkable discoveries, and [scientists] say, ‘Isn’t it enough that we’re doing these amazing things? Do we also have to explain to people why amazing things are good for them?’ And unfortunately, the answer is, ‘Yes, you do! It’s the same reason you have to explain why vaccines work.’”
That's interesting advice, isn't it? Imagine that all scientists became experts at explaining things in simple ways to the general public. Why would we need science writers in such a world?

Some scientists are good at talking to the general public—Carl Sagan was a good example. But most scientists have other skills that are far more important. It's incredibly naive to think that scientists are going to train themselves to become good public speakers.

What we can do, hopefully, is to educate science writers so they can do the job they're supposed to do. This means that the onus is on science writers to learn the science so they can present it accurately to the general public. So far, they are not doing a very good job.

Susan Matheson is referring in her article to Michael Specter who writes for The New Yorker. Apparently he's working on a book about CRISPR. She includes a quotation from him ...
He’s worried that there are not enough public conversations about science. “Technology moves faster than our ability to deal with it,” says Specter, “and now we’re…on the verge of being capable of doing really freaky things with genetics. Those freaky things are exciting, but they’re also scary. We need to have a way to talk about both the fear and the promise, without people…forming into factions. The only way that can happen is if lots of people are talking about it all the time.”
This view illustrates another problem with science writers. Technology is not the same as science and new technology is not scary or threatening. There's nothing new about the promise of CRISPR that we didn't discuss back in the early 1970s when recombinant DNA first became widely known. Most of us have already done lots of "freaky" things with genetics but we did it decades ago. (One of my students helped created a mouse that would turn blue when you gave it a heat shock. (Kothary et al., 1989))

Here's a science writer who seems determined to make the new CRIPR technology sound "freaky" in order to sell lots of books. That's not an example of good science journalism, in my opinion.


Kothary, R., Clapoff, S., Darling, S., Perry, M. D., Moran, L. A., and Rossant, J. (1989) Inducible expression of an hsp68-lacZ hybrid gene in transgenic mice. Development, 105(4), 707-714. [PDF]

147 comments :

  1. "Technology is not the same as science".

    Well, in biology at least I'm not sure the distinction is meaningful. CRISPR was discovered and explored by academic scientists, both in its original bacterial environment and in its use in eukaryotic genome editing. It's not like there are literal genetic engineers that are different from biologists in the way mechanical engineers aren't physicists.

    "and new technology is not scary or threatening."

    It certainly can be. I'm pretty technophilic myself but a lot of new tech has led to environmental and health problems, so it is worth questioning if a new development is really a good idea.

    "There's nothing new about the promise of CRISPR that we didn't discuss back in the early 1970s when recombinant DNA first became widely known"

    But then it was just hypothetical. Yes, you could *technically* manipulate DNA with restriction enzymes and the like, but it was obvious that large scale manipulation of eukaryotic genomes wasn't going to be feasible using 1970s methods. Now it is. It's much like how movies for decades featured intelligent computers doing the work of people but people are now realizing that it is beginning to look like this isn't just science fiction and many white collar jobs may be soon replaced by computers in the same way many blue collar jobs were replaced by traditional automation.

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  2. Well, I would ask some of these science writers cited how they would go about trying to explain quantum mechanics when eminent scientists like the late Richard Feynman, Steven Weinberg, and Lawrence Krauss tell us that nobody understands quantum mechanics.

    How does one explain a theory known as the participatory anthropic principal which argues that the universe doesn't exist if there are no sentient beings around to observe it. A very eminent physicist, John Wheeler, argued in support of such a principal.

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  3. Another thing for scientific journalists to consider is to rethink the rules of journalism when it comes to writing about science. One of the rules of normal journalism is not to let the subjects of your article see a preview of the article, or let the subject of the article critique the article.

    If journalists would allow the scientists to review the article before publication, a lot of these errors could be avoided. The journalist could perhaps limit the review to just the science, and try to redact any additional opinion or non-scientific material.

    Scientists should also view journalists as something we should embrace on an ethical and moral level. Transparency is an absolute requirement for ethical scientific research, and journalists play an important role in allowing the public to be a part of that process. Science can only tell us what we can do. Morality and ethics tell us what we should do. Where those two things meet is in the public square, and journalists are the criers.

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  4. Check out the illustration to the article. "Journalists in the 2016 Marine Biology Laboratory hands-on research course learn to pipette." Only one out of five seems capable to even of even holding the pipetter correctly. If they--with an instruction--can't figure out something this simple, what are the chances that they can write something that's useful? The answer is "approximately zero".

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    1. The genomicists I know also don't know how to pipette.

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    2. But I betcha they would be able within a few minutes of instruction. It's not about the skills - it's about general ability. Best I can tell, the profession of journalist selects for a negative general ability. That is, given random 100 physicists and 100 journalists, it's more or less given that physicists will display better understanding of the world around us, will shoot hoops better, and heck, might even write better prose.

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    3. Hands are overrated. Science is happening between pairs of ears.

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  5. "Storytelling" has firmly invaded the professional scientific literature too. Lots of papers get published because they "tell a good story", many others do not get published for a long time because the authors find it difficult to put together a good "story", etc.

    And it's all very depressing -- paranoia is a hell to live with, and one would prefer to be able to read a paper and know that what he reads is to be trusted. And when that is not the case, we have a problem.

    The public reads these books and popular articles and has no way to tell what is true and what is not.

    On that level, scientists can tell. but, they have the same problem when it comes to the professional literature -- if a paper is extremely important to what you do, you will sit down for a day or two, pick it apart carefully and find out what is/might be wrong.

    But there is no way you can be both productive and stay up to date with everything that you need to know by taking that approach to every paper. There are only 24 hours in a day. So you often have to believe the authors. But can you really be sure that they are telling you everything and did not hide some important caveat in order to get the paper published, that they checked every single thing and did not rush the paper to publication, that the reviewers (overwhelmed with work themselves) did their job well, etc.? You cannot be sure, and you can be all the less confident in the integrity of the process when you know that all the incentives in the system are stacked against it...

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    1. An old Russian proverb works well here: Trust but verify. Obviously, a reviewer is not going to repeat all of the lab work found in a paper, so there is no way of knowing if the reported data is accurate. That's not the job of review. The function of review is to make sure the proper controls are reported so that the reported data can be properly interpreted. At best, the reviewer will have an understanding of other research in field which will raise red flag if the data in a paper diverges greatly from what others have found.

      What we rely on is other scientists trying to build on data that has been published. This is how findings in papers are ultimately put to the test, and how a broader consensus is built.

      The old system of checks and balances was a scientist's reputation (for better or worse). Even honest retractions due to simple oversights would often damage a scientist's reputation, perhaps hurting their chances on getting funded in the future. I think system has been somewhat eroded due to the sheer volume of science being published and the balkanization of specialties within science.

      To borrow from Churchill, peer review is the worst system for publication, except for all the rest.

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    2. Eric,

      You put too much emphasis on data and experiments. That's not the main problem with science and science reporting. The main problem with science these days is the interpretation of data and the ability to put your work in the proper context.

      It's not data that's limiting, it's theory.

      There are very few papers that deserve attention from science writers. Very few papers make a significant contribution to the field all by themselves and that includes—especially includes—papers in the medical literature.

      I recently reviewed a genomics paper where the data was pretty good. The work deserved to be published. However, the introduction to the paper and the discussion of the results was seriously flawed and for that reason the paper needed revision before being accepted for publication.

      Peer review isn't working because the "peers" don't understand the theory and the background. Instead they quibble over details about the methodology and how many controls are need.

      Science writers just read the introduction, the conclusions, and the press releases. That's where they get mislead.

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    3. Larry wrote:

      " The main problem with science these days is the interpretation of data ".

      The main problem is that the only rational interpretation of the scientific data is, that design plaid a decisive role.

      But since that is not the wished scenario by Larry et al, the science writers must make malabarisms of the craziest sorts to fit the data the preconceived notion that natural mechanisms must explain the origin of the phenomena in question.

      Bias is the major problem. And bad will.

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    4. The old system of checks and balances was a scientist's reputation (for better or worse). Even honest retractions due to simple oversights would often damage a scientist's reputation, perhaps hurting their chances on getting funded in the future.

      That has been to a significant degree reversed these days -- people in a given field know about some labs that tend to publish stuff that has to be taken with a grain of salt and about others that are to be trusted, but that is hard-earned knowledge over a long period of time and is by no means comprehensive. And once you step a bit outside of your immediate field, it does not work any longer.

      The problem is that you no longer build a reputation by doing very careful science because that is not what gets you CNS papers (what get you CNS papers is stuff that generates flashy headlines) and because fewer and fewer people have time to read in depth (so everybody goes by the impact factor proxy).

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    5. Larry,

      Thanks for taking the time to post such an insightful reply.

      I have to admit that my approach towards papers is different than yours, and perhaps to my own detriment. I tend to draw my own conclusions from the data and methodology found in a paper. It's not as if I ignore the introduction and discussion sections, but I have to admit that I don't pay as much attention to those sections. At the same time, I don't review papers.

      Thanks again for taking the time to reply and sharing your experience as a reviewer.

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  6. The best scuence journalists -- Carl Zimmer is the outstanding example -- do live up to Matheson's description. Carl told me he was an Englush major. That was in a bar at the 2011 Evolution meetings in Ottawa -- Larry, who I had just met, was sitting nearby.

    Carl was one of the few science journalists who never fell for the Death of Junk DNA story. That disaster was basically due to scientists like the ENCODE leadership -- the journalists believed them, especially since the story was so tempting.

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    1. I spoke with Carl several times in London a few weeks ago. I agree that he is the exception. His method, as he freely admits, is knowing which scientists to consult.

      Suzan Mazur was also at the meeting. The contrast between the behavior of those two science writers was remarkable.

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    2. Dr. Moran, "The contrast between the behavior of those two science writers was remarkable." Intriguing sentence. Elaborate?

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    3. I was just skimming through an article written by Carl Zimmer for Quanta Magazine on the EE meeting in the UK. Very well written. While Larry isn't mentioned specifically (according to Alt+F), I have a feeling that he is one of the anonymous "scientists I talked to". Article found here:

      https://www.quantamagazine.org/20161122-scientists-seek-to-update-evolution/

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    4. Is my impression right that Mazur published a book on or related to the meeting well before the meeting even stated?

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    5. I've known Zimmer since these days (his best work, in my opinion!)

      http://discovermagazine.com/1995/apr/01-molelike-animal-melts-ice-tunnels-with-its-head

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  7. On behalf of creationists we would say we get a raw deal from science writers.
    They impose their conclusions on the merits of creationism under the guise of accurate reportage.
    However its common.
    Its been said before but science subjects are complicated and these writers could only be JACK of trades and master of none.
    if writing is a skill, and those given large audiences to write too need even more skill, then easily they could fail in skill in insight and analysis of science subjects breaking new ground.

    Creationism would like science writers to not bring in their own conclusions.
    In fact threads like this reinforce , for me, that the understanding/opinion of science writers is causing important errors elsewhere.

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    1. When you are wrong on just about everything, I can't blame you for not wanting people reporting on that fact.

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    2. Creationism is a religious belief, not science, which could explain how it is covered by science journalists.

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    3. Chris B. Thats an opinion. Thats not what we say. Who is the boss of truth!
      The science writer can't decide this but must only report.
      They can quote AUTHORITY figures who say this whoever that is.
      If the science writers say this its no different then any other opinion they base some subject they are reporting on.
      I'm saying they are making conclusions PERIOD.
      So make they mistakes. Creationism contention is just one more incompetence.

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    4. Being able to tell the difference between actual authorities and bullshit artists is a necessary skill for a good journalist. That creationists are so rarely regarded as authorities is a fortunatre sign that this skill has not been completely lost.

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    5. That's not an opinion, Robert, that's a fact. There is no empirical evidence for creationism. It exists only as a religious or philosophical idea.

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  8. Robert, first take care of your own conclusions before you worry about science writers. You understand less than even the worst science writers.

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  9. Suzan Mazur is disappointed that her views were not noticed at the meeting. See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suzan-mazur/pterosaurs-hijack-royal-s_b_13131246.html

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  10. Do the journalists ever engage in discussion?
    It seems so far they have avoided completely.

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  11. "On behalf of creationists we would say we get a raw deal from science writers."

    You should be targeting fiction writers - that's more in line with what you believe.

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  12. Who can we trust today? Can the scientific community of writers be trusted?

    All you have to do is ask anyone who finished university courses on evolution. I've recently asked a large group of pretty well educated people about the origins of life. I'd say the large majority said that they were taught that biogenesis and evolution are scientific facts.
    Here is the kicker though. Do you know why they believed that those issues must have been scientific facts?

    I didn't get to speak to everyone but the predominant belief among the ones I spoke to was that 'if biogenesis and evolution were not scientific facts they would be taught in schools and universities.'

    Yes, this is a sad fact among the Canadian society of the educated mass.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. There are two problems here:

      1. Who can be trusted is a problem
      2. But also a problem, and one with deeper long-term consequences, is the erosion of trust in science itself (which is a separate thing from scientists as a group in society).

      Of course, none of that is understood ("science" as a body of knowledge vs "science" as a set of epistemological practices for generating knowledge are completely mixed up in most people's minds, if the latter concept even exists to begin with; so are "scientist" as a person employed in research vs "scientist" as someone committed to following those epistemological practices).

      There is a deep and perverse irony in it all.

      The institutional factors driving widespread behavior and practices that make so much of cutting-edge scientific results and reporting suspect are themselves a consequence of society's overall scientific ignorance.

      When everything has to make money or it is perceived as useless, and when the general thinking is that the more cutthroat competition between researchers for funding and positions the better, and that the more pressure to produce "important" discoveries you put them under, the more likely they are to generate such discoveries, it is entirely expected that you will end up with a situation such as the one we have now (with a negative future trend).

      But all of that stems from a profound misunderstanding of both the nature of science and of the world as science has revealed it to us.

      And if overall trust in science is eroded because of such factors, then we cannot expect improvements in the overall level of understanding on these issues. The vicious circle is thus closed.

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    3. Re Marinov

      Many of the most important discoveries in science occurred by accident and were unexpected by their discoverers. A couple of examples will illustrate this point.

      1. The null result of the Michelson/Morley experiment was totally unexpected. It eventually led to the Special Theory of Relativity.

      2. The discovery that the expansion of the universe was accelerating was totally unexpected and has not been satisfactorily explained to this day (dark energy is really a place holder as nobody has a clue as to what it is)

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    4. Georgi Marinov,

      You are no doubt a human being with fully developed thinking ability. Finally someone to talk to.

      I appreciate that. I enjoy reading your comments even if I don't agree with you.

      What do you think is going to happen to real science in the future? We need science. We had survived thanks to science.But we were also (fried alive in Japan 1945) thanks to science.

      What's your evaluation?

      Can science be deadly in the wrong hands? Where are we heading? Are we heading to the beauty of the discovery of the universe or to the corporate control of science? Is profit first able to sustain true science?

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    5. People were fried alive in Japan not because of science, they were fried alive because politicians decided to use the bomb over populated areas.

      What will happen to science is the same thing that has happened to proto-science in the ancient past when civilizations have collapsed (as ours will do too in the coming centuries due to resource depletion and environmental degradation).

      1. Science requires that surpluses in society exist so that people who can spend all their time thinking about obscure stuff can be supported. And the more complex it gets, the more expensive it is to maintain it. It also becomes more fragile and easy to destroy. Imagine doing genomics in a world without the hi-tech industry; it is not possible. Also think of the many fields and subfields in which all expertise in the world is concentrated in a very small group of people, either because things have gotten so complex that only a select few can understand them or because of the narrowness and obscurity of the topic. The former category includes our deepest understanding of the world -- the mathematics of cutting edge theoretical physics is brutal and there are not that many people around who can grasp it all. The latter category includes much of our knowledge about organismal diversity on the planet. What happens once all these people fail to train proper replacements? There are also specimen collections and databases that are easily lost and difficult/impossible to recreate. So once societal support for science evaporates due to seemingly more pressing concerns taking over, knowledge will disappear.

      2. Scientists do not like to admit that, but it is a fact of life -- in practice science has to a large extent merged with the existing power structures and ideologies. There is no need for that, the philosophical foundation is incompatible with ideology anyway, and the intellectually robust opposition to the insanity of the current system comes from within science, but in practice none of that matters. The fact is that universities are where the economic orthodoxy of the day is codified, universities produce the ruling "elites" and the intellectuals supporting and justifying the system, the top universities are themselves very rich and tightly linked with business interests, etc.

      Which is nothing new -- this has typically been the situation in the past too, because of the need to find a source of support for intellectual activity. Thus the priest class in the ancient past always had a close relationship with the king and the aristocracy, philosophers did too (a few renegade exceptions aside).

      But that has an unfortunate consequence -- once people lose faith in the system when it begins to fall apart, knowledge and philosophy in general are often a casualty too because of their close association with that system.

      And modern civilization is to a much greater extent the product of science, thus the link is stronger than ever.

      Accordingly, you can expect the loss of trust in the system to go hand in hand with loss of trust in science too.

      You can kind of see it already. For the average person on the street there is little distinction between neoliberal economists and theoretical physicists, they all work at the same prestigious institutions and are perceived as part of the same “elite”.

      Thus when the economy crashes and the "experts" fail to both predict it and fix it, confidence goes down not only in economists, but also in "experts" across the board. And that includes things such as climate science, for example.

      That mainstream economics is a pseudoscience resting on unexamined (and often demonstrably false) assumptions is irrelevant, that is on its own an obscure academic discussion that nobody cares about

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    6. Georgi-
      An expert economist needs a close relationship with the king as well.

      Politicians (the kings) have two ways of doing business-
      one is to bring people together, the other is to divide and conquer.

      Here in the USA, I'd say the politicians have been busy with the second strategy.
      The expert economist will then be useful for setting things up so the conquered end up with nothing while the conquerors will have it all.

      I'm positing the reason economics remains a pseudoscience has to do with the usefulness of poor policy for the purpose of the divide and conquer.

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    7. Georgi Marinov,

      The science you do love (so do I) is not the science that is being broadcased. Why?
      Do you know the the word and the meaning behind the term "greed"?
      Don't let your thinking ability to accept this non-sens...

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  13. Re Velhovsky

    In the first place, origin of life and evolution are separate subjects. Origin of life is a problem in chemistry, evolution is a problem in biology.

    The fact is that evolution, defined as common descent, is as close to a scientific fact as it gets.

    The method by which life originated is still not known but there are several hypotheses out there which are plausible. Eventually, we will understand the origin of life and, like Laplace on the stability of the Solar System, will have no need of a designer hypothesis.

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    1. colnago80

      In the first place, origin of life and evolution are separate subjects. Origin of life is a problem in chemistry, evolution is a problem in biology.

      They are, but one cannot occur without the other according to your belief.

      The fact is that evolution, defined as common descent, is as close to a scientific fact as it gets

      I can make an argument that what you call the fact for evolution-common descent-I will call common design. I can present facts that will show that your "fact(s)" are just a collection of wishful thinking without any scientific or experimental evidence.

      The method by which life originated is still not known but there are several hypotheses out there which are plausible. Eventually, we will understand the origin of life and, like Laplace on the stability of the Solar System, will have no need of a designer hypothesis.

      The method of how life originated may not be known, but all evidence available proves that life only comes from life. For you and others to make a claim otherwise, you would have to prove that at least that the origins of life can be replicated. So far, it has not been done and your optimism and confidence will not change that.

      If you want to be taken seriously, provide the scientific evidence that persuaded you to believe how life originated, and I will be glad to refute it.

      Eventually, we will understand the origin of life and, like Laplace on the stability of the Solar System, will have no need of a designer hypothesis.

      How do you know that the origins of life understanding will sway your way? What if the scientific evidence points and will reveal the "other way"? What are you going to do then?

      I mean, you seem to be the man that is searching for the TRUTH, are't you?

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    2. Velhovsky,

      colnago80 is quite capable of defending his/her words. I just want to make a two obvious points:

      "They are, but one cannot occur without the other according to your belief."

      Of course there can be no evolution as we know it without DNA-based life, but that does not refute the basic fact that the origin of life and evolution are separate subjects. The origin of life is just the gap you want to hide your imaginary creator in. Even if there is some supernatural being that created life on earth in a magical poof, it would not invalidate the mountains of evidence supporting evolution.

      "I can make an argument that what you call the fact for evolution-common descent-I will call common design. I can present facts that will show that your "fact(s)" are just a collection of wishful thinking without any scientific or experimental evidence."

      Go ahead. Cite one empirical, scientifically valid study that supports your argument. If you want to be taken seriously, provide the scientific evidence that persuaded you to believe how life originated.

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    3. Velhovsky,

      Can you explain why the designer took so long to get the job done? More than one thousand million years of just single-celled organisms seems like a long time; even the Cambrian "explosion" was spread over tens of millions of years. This doesn't scream "design" to me. What sort of designer would behave like this? I'm not saying that this question has no answers (e.g., a spaceship visiting every 10^7 to 10^9 years) but I'm curious as to what your answer would be.

      Delete
    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    5. Nigel

      maybe he took just six days......

      Colnado80 wrote:

      The fact is that evolution, defined as common descent, is as close to a scientific fact as it gets.

      When you can explain where the genes of Rotifiers and Octopus find their place in the tree of life, and the 20 -40% ORFan genes found in almost all organisms, we talk.

      " The method by which life originated is still not known but there are several hypotheses out there which are plausible. "

      Plausible, because you parrot hear say , and put your blind faith into it ? Because if you have the slightest understanding about the problems OOL researchers face, you would not make such a foolish statement.

      Would you also say that it is plausible that a tornado over a junkyard could produce a 747 ?
      Would you also say that it is plausible that mindless random chance can write a book ?

      The cell is like a factory, that has various computer like hierarchically organized systems of  hardware and software, various language based  informational systems, a translation system, hudge amounts of precise instructional/specified, complex information stored and extract systems to make all parts needed to produce the factory and replicate itself, the scaffold structure, that permits the build of the indispensable protection wall, form and size of its building, walls with  gates that permits  cargo in and out, recognition mechanisms that let only the right cargo in, has specific sites and production lines, "employees", busy and instructed to produce all kind of necessary products, parts and subparts  with the right form and size through the right materials, others which mount the parts together in the right order, on the right place, in the right sequence, at the right time,   which has sophisticated check and error detection mechanisms all along the production process, the hability to compare correctly produced parts to faulty ones and discard the faulty ones, and repeat the process to make the correct ones;  highways and cargo carriers that have tags which recognize where  to drop the cargo where its needed,  cleans up waste and has waste bins and sophisticated recycle  mechanisms, storage departments, produces its energy and shuttles it to where its needed, and last not least, does reproduce itself.

      The salient thing is that the individual parts and compartments have no function by their own. They had to emerge ALL AT ONCE, No stepwise manner is possible, all systems are INTERDEPENDENT and IRREDUCIBLE. And it could not be through evolution, since evolution depends on fully working self replicating  cells, in order to function.

      How can someone rationally argue that the origin of the most sophisticated factory in the universe would be probable to be based on natural occurence, without involving any guiding intelligence ?

      To go from a bacterium to people is less of a step than to go from a mixture of amino acids to a bacterium. — Lynn Margulis

      Delete
    6. Re Velhovsky

      What is the definition of common design, other then the notion that there is one designer who designed everything?

      Delete
    7. Otangelo spews ignorantly, as he is wont to do:

      When you can explain where the genes of Rotifiers and Octopus find their place in the tree of life, and the 20 -40% ORFan genes found in almost all organisms, we talk.

      Do try to keep up, Otangelo:

      http://www.nature.com/nrg/journal/v12/n10/full/nrg3053.html

      I admit, I have no idea what is confusing you regarding rotifers and octopi. But I'm sure it's something really, really stupid.

      Delete
    8. Velhovsky drools:

      I can make an argument that what you call the fact for evolution-common descent-I will call common design.

      Can you, now? Well, let's see how that works.

      The very theory that allows one to draw phylogenetic trees based on genomic data is the same one that underlies genetic paternity testing.

      So suppose there is some dispute over whether Jane's biological father is George or Mark. Genetic testing demonstrates, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Mark is Jane's father, not George. So, then, how do we understand this under your "common designer" theory? Does it meant that George was created by a different "designer" than was Mark and Jane? Or what, exactly? Do you, perhaps, reject the whole idea of paternity testing?

      Delete
    9. colnago80,

      What is the definition of common design, other then the notion that there is one designer who designed everything?

      Someone who asks this kind of question doesn't deserve consideration and an answer because it speaks volumes about you and your attitude.

      Common design can be easily identified today in engineering or architecture; i.e. common concepts that are used in similar designs, such as bicycle> motorcycle> car>plane> spaceship etc. Same can be applied to architecture and so on.
      Nobody believes that bicycle has evolved into a motorcycle as far as I can tell.

      What common descent believers are focusing on are the similarities between species that can be easily attributed to common design.

      What they fail to acknowledge are the difference in the so-called "tree" of common descent that are just too great to be explained (not to mention to be proven by experiments) by any of the known mechanism of evolution to evolve and in the time available for those differences to be accounted for.

      In the vast majority of cases it is a wishful thinking on the part of the promoters of evolution that those differences can be accounted for by evolution. There is very little scientific evidence next to none to support those notions though.

      Insisting on those ideas and promoting them in the social media mainly will not change those facts. No way! I can guarantee it!

      Delete
    10. colnago80,

      I'm expecting the full report on your origins of life evidence repot that made you who you are.

      My friends and I are not that demanding. If you provide ONE PIECE OF evidence that swayed you into the origins of life belief, we will make you the man of the century.

      Delete
    11. Re Velhovsky

      I don't expect that the origin of life problem will be entirely solved in my lifetime. After all, it took a hundred years for Laplace to provide a naturalistic explanation for the stability of the Solar System after Newton proposed divine intervention as an explanation.

      Delete
    12. Velhovsky, first quoting: "'origin of life and evolution are separate subjects.' They are, but one cannot occur without the other according to your belief."

      Actually, evolution occurs whatever the origin of life was. There's excellent reason to think life arose without any 'design' or 'creation', but even if god or aliens or whatever started life on Earth, living things clearly evolve. Evolution is a fact, whatever the origin of life.

      Delete
    13. colnago80,

      I don't expect that the origin of life problem will be entirely solved in my lifetime. After all, it took a hundred years for Laplace to provide a naturalistic explanation for the stability of the Solar System after Newton proposed divine intervention as an explanation.

      I gotta tell ya colnag80, I just can't understand why you were so sure about the origin of life being the scientific fact and not requiring a designer earlier, in our initial discussion, and now, all of the sudden switching the issue to the future resolution.

      Do you or don't you know what you believe in?

      Delete
    14. If the origin of life is not a scientific fact, then that means life has existed eternally. Is that really what you believe, Velhovsky?

      And I knew you'd ignore my question, since it requires you to actually think critically about your beliefs. We'll just chalk it up to the usual creationist intellectual dishonesty.

      Delete
    15. Velhovsky

      have you read the link of nature, that lutesuite brainlessly posted ? Lets have a look:

      Orphan genes might arise from duplication and rearrangement processes followed by fast divergence; however, de novo evolution out of non-coding genomic regions is emerging as an important additional mechanism. This process appears to provide raw material continuously for the evolution of new gene functions, which can become relevant for lineage-specific adaptations.

      Based on this, he thinks he has a valid argument to argue common ancestry is true.

      Now, what our friend seems to oversee is that the authors of the paper do not state anything with security.
      They write : de novo evolution out of non-coding genomic regions is emerging as an important additional mechanism.

      The authors just make the assertion, without providing a SHRED of evidence why evolution should be a compelling explanation. They just assert it. Period.

      That exemplifies why lutesuite is not worth my time. All he contributes here is name calling his oponents, not much else.

      The more someone resorts to personal attacks, the less this person has a understanding of science, and the hability to back up its views with substantial scientific arguments.

      lutesuite should maybe take a basic biology class and educate himself. He is one together with a view other trolls that Larry seems to welcome, and, as it seems likes as they share his blind beliefs without thinking for themself. It does not matter, that this way, his blog has come down to the level of schoolyard rowdies and childish behavior.

      Delete
    16. The authors just make the assertion, without providing a SHRED of evidence why evolution should be a compelling explanation. They just assert it. Period.

      It appears Otangelo is so dense he does not realize that what I linked was only the abstract to an article. The evidence whose existence he denies will be found in the full paper. If, unlike me, he does not have institutional access to the full paper, he'll either have to pay the requisite fee or make a trip to his local university library.

      Suffice it to say, the very existence of a review paper from five years ago, answering the questions Otangelo claims defy scientific explanation, indicate that his claim is based solely on his ignorance of the extant literature on the subject.

      Delete
    17. Observational evidence isn't good enough for creationists. They want it to come in pre-packaged fable form that must be believed on faith.

      Talking snakes and donkeys, magical sticks causing color patterns in livestock fur, the sun standing still for an extended period of time, rivers turning to blood, men walking on water, miraculous healings of blindness. All of that they will believe on the say-so of an old book. Men sat down and wrote it, as in it is nothing but unverifiable assertions. But that's all it takes for them to believe it.

      But now, today, with scientists they can go and interview in the here and now, if these people perform experiments, or do observations of patterns in life and write it down in papers, they won't believe it. It's "just assertion" after all.

      The irony is so thick you can spread butter on it and feed the homeless.

      Delete
    18. Hey Velhovsky, you wrote:

      "I can make an argument that what you call the fact for evolution-common descent-I will call common design. I can present facts that will show that your "fact(s)" are just a collection of wishful thinking without any scientific or experimental evidence. "

      Well, I'd say the stage is all yours, I'm really interested in this argument supported by the facts you mention.

      Delete
    19. Velhovsky will have to first learn the trick of forming an argument that is even coherent, before he can move on the supporting one with facts. We must be patient with him.

      Delete
    20. Velhovsky asks- “Do you or don’t you know what you believe in?”
      It seems to me I’m trying to discover what I believe in, I read and think about things and my mind changes. And ‘what I believe’ changes as well.
      I wonder to what extent my experience is shared.

      bwilson295-
      The origin of life is very important in understanding the starting point of evolution.
      All the disagreements about evolution have to do with where it starts.
      Where it starts and how it starts are not unrelated.

      MRR-
      The observational evidence is ‘life comes only from life’.
      I’ll bet that’s not good enough for you.
      Perhaps you can feed some homeless with this.

      Delete
    21. JJ -- I think you missed the point. Evolution happens. It happens now and has been happening for something more than 3.2 billion year into the past. This is an abundantly demonstrated fact.

      The origin of life is more of a mystery. We know enough about the conditions of early earth and its chemistry that it is reasonable to think that living cells could originate by natural processes. However, we know so little that I am willing to call the origin of the first cells a mystery (at this time) for the sake of argument.

      Whatever process brought the first cells into existence, the reality of evolution afterwards this not a matter of controversy or disagreement within science, though we love to argue over the details.

      Delete
    22. By the way, Barbara = bwilson295. I don't understand why the computer and/or internet has changed this, and whether it will change it back.

      Delete
    23. latesuite,

      If the origin of life is not a scientific fact, then that means life has existed eternally. Is that really what you believe, Velhovsky?

      What are you basing your conclusion on? Do you have at least one piece of evidence? Is it the same evidence you base your whole faith on that the origins of life is a scientific fact? To me, and many, many others the origin of life--abiogenesis is a scientific fuck. Do you want to know why?

      And I knew you'd ignore my question, since it requires you to actually think critically about your beliefs. We'll just chalk it up to the usual creationist intellectual dishonesty.

      This is a common tactic of people who based their believes on faith and claim that the support faith.
      Please give me one piece of evidence that was so convincing to you about abiogenesis that made you abandon logic, common sense andd thinking ability.
      btw; the universe had a beginning. The beginning of it was highly organized beyond what you can bear. What or who was behind the organization before the universe and life came about?

      Delete
    24. I'm still waiting for all those who fell in love with abiogenesis to provide what it was that made them insane about it. I gues, they have a short memory and can't remember what made them to believe in something that has no evidence, no foundation, no logic but it appeals to some senses that can be manipulated or triggered.

      Delete
    25. Barbara

      and its chemistry that it is reasonable to think that living cells could originate by natural processes.

      Please point out based on what you make this affirmative claim.

      You say evolution is a fact. Evolution bears various meanings. To which do you refere ?

      Velhovsky

      what about if our friend lutesuite which claimed to have access to the whole paper of nature which he linked to, would provide us with the quote of the paper which he supposedly read, which explains in detail how ORFan genes evolved ?

      ( I bet btw. our friend has not read the paper, and lied by arguing he did ).

      Delete
    26. I gues, they have a short memory and can't remember what made them to believe in something that has no evidence, no foundation, no logic

      There are hundreds of good papers on this topic, if not thousands. But I'm sure without reading them just the fabulous power of your mind is enough to tell you they're all worthless.

      It seems to me we used to get a better class of IDiot around here.

      Delete
    27. @ Velhovsy.

      What are you basing your conclusion on?

      It's a simple matter of logic. Which, of course, is something with which you are completely unfamiliar. If there was no "origin of life", and since life now exists, life would have to have existed eternally. What part of that are you unable to comprehend?

      Delete
    28. Otangelo The Ignorant bravely goes out on a limb:

      what about if our friend lutesuite which claimed to have access to the whole paper of nature which he linked to, would provide us with the quote of the paper which he supposedly read, which explains in detail how ORFan genes evolved ?

      ( I bet btw. our friend has not read the paper, and lied by arguing he did ).


      You lose. From page 696 of the paper:

      De novo evolution. In this scenario, randomly occurring sequence combinations would form cryptic functional sites (for example, transcription initiation regions, splice sites and polyadenylation sites) and would come under a regulatory control to produce a distinct processed RNA transcript (FIG. 3). This RNA could initially function as an antisense or structural RNA39 and would eventually acquire a functional ORF from which a completely new protein could evolve. The most stringent criterion for indicating the involvement of this mechanism
      requires that the corresponding genomic region of
      the gene is present in outgroup organisms, but as a noncoding stretch that is neither transcribed nor translated. Although this possibility for the emergence of new gene functions initially seemed the least likely2, there are now a number of fully documented cases supporting de novo origination by this mechanism 40–44 (BOX 2). In addition, several surveys identified many more candidates for possible de novo evolved genes in various species45–49.


      And here are the references cited giving the examples (w/ annotations from the authors):

      40. Cai, J. J., Zhao, R., Jiang, H. & Wang, W. De novo
      origination of a new proteincoding gene in
      Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Genetics 179, 487–496
      (2008).
      This was the first study that provided direct
      functional evidence for the evolution of a completely
      new ORF out of a previously non-coding RNA.

      41. Heinen, T. J., Staubach, F., Häming, D. & Tautz, D. Emergence of a new gene from an intergenic region.
      Curr. Biol. 19, 1527–1531 (2009). This was the first study that provided direct functional evidence for the de novo evolution of a new transcript out of a non-coding genomic region.

      42. Knowles, D. G. & McLysaght, A. Recent de novo origin of human protein coding genes. Genome Res. 19,
      1752–1759 (2009).

      43. Li, D. et al. A de novo originated gene depresses
      budding yeast mating pathway and is repressed by the
      protein encoded by its antisense strand. Cell Res. 20,
      408–420 (2010).

      44. Li, C. Y. et al. A human-specific de novo proteincoding gene associated with human brain functions. PLoS Comput. Biol. 6, e1000734 (2010).

      I hope you didn't wager too much money on your bet. I somehow suspect this paper won't be finding its way into your little "library."

      Delete
    29. bwilson295-
      You say,“… it is reasonable to think that living cells could originate by natural processes.”

      That’s called ‘begging the question’ aka ‘assuming the initial point’.
      You would have to not do that in order to understand my point.

      Velohsky-
      If you say you haven’t found any of the existing abiogenesis scenarios plausible, we could agree about that.
      But if you say that implies a ‘design inference’, then I will disagree with that.

      judmarc-
      Is there a scenario for abiogenesis you find plausible?
      Which one?

      Delete
    30. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

      Delete
    31. A textbook example of handwaving, Otangelo.

      I also can't help noticing the absence of an apology for your false accusation that I was lying. Next time you think of making such an accusation, remember that, when it comes to lying, you creationists pretty well have the market cornered.

      I await your citation of a scientific article that documents the creation of orphan genes out of thin air thru magic by an immaterial intelligent designer. I suspect I will be waiting a very long time.

      And you really need to work on your ability to form a coherent argument. For instance, you write this:

      Begging the question. No. It does not support that conclusion. Similar genes just mean they are similar. Nothing else.

      If that were the case, then you'd have no basis for identifying certain genes as "orphan genes", would you? Yet, here you are, using a term that is based on the existence of evolution from a common ancestor, in attempt to disprove evolution from a common ancestor. It takes a really special kind of stupid to do that. But we already know how special you are, Otangelo/ElShamah. Don't we?

      Delete
    32. Jack Jackson asks:

      Is there a scenario for abiogenesis you find plausible?

      Which one?


      Yes, it's called "chemistry" - you may have heard of it.

      (Please note: organic chemicals are common in meteorites. So "organic" chemistry goes on even in the harsh conditions of space. The fact that this chemistry occurred and occurs on Earth, then, is pretty trivial. It's just been given outsize importance because certain very old documents ascribe these sorts of "creative" acts exclusively to supernatural anthropomorphized divinities, a/k/a "gods," and thus some folks who set great store by these old documents tend to get bent out of shape about what atoms and their electrons have always done. They also used to get upset about planetary astronomy and physics for similar reasons, but that seems to've died down a bit. Not a whole lot of geocentrists on science blogs these days.)

      Delete
    33. You also still haven't elaborated on your claim that octopus and rotifers cannot be placed within the phylogenetic tree of life, Otangelo. However, I suspect you are referring to another common creationist lie, which is debunked here:

      http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2015/09/09/creationists-are-now-actively-propagating-the-claim-that-octopuses-are-aliens/

      That article is, incidentally, quite germane to Larry's post re: the perils of sloppy science journalism.

      Delete
    34. @judmarc

      It's just been given outsize importance because certain very old documents ascribe these sorts of "creative" acts exclusively to supernatural anthropomorphized divinities, a/k/a "gods," and thus some folks who set great store by these old documents tend to get bent out of shape about what atoms and their electrons have always done. They also used to get upset about planetary astronomy and physics for similar reasons, but that seems to've died down a bit. Not a whole lot of geocentrists on science blogs these days.

      It's surprising how popular the "god of the gaps" argument remains, given the fact that it has an unbroken record of abject failure going back millennia.

      Delete
    35. judmarc-
      If you are referring to the ‘panspermia’ hypothesis, then wouldn’t “Physics” be more accurate than “Chemistry”?

      After all, panspermia needs gravity to work and that’s physics, not chemistry.
      Isn’t that right?

      lutesuite-
      Isn't 'god' always 'of the gaps'?

      Delete
    36. JJ -- You wrote that my saying “… it is reasonable to think that living cells could originate by natural processes.” is called 'begging the question', thus again demonstrating that you missed my point (on purpose?).

      My point? Evolution happens. It is abundantly demonstrated. That's true no matter how life originated. The truth of evolution (selection, genetic drift, mutation, life's long history, our common ancestry with the rest of earth's living things) doesn't depend on how the first cells began.

      Delete
    37. @ Jack Jackson:

      Isn't 'god' always 'of the gaps'?

      I don't see why that must be the case. If there was some powerful intelligent being that was responsible for the creation of life, there's no reason for there not to be positive evidence for this being's existence.

      Delete
    38. judmarc-
      If you are referring to the ‘panspermia’ hypothesis, then wouldn’t “Physics” be more accurate than “Chemistry”?


      What?? Nothing as exotic as panspermia is needed. I meant just what I said: Chemistry, including organic chemistry, is happening all the time, everywhere, even in what we'd consider forbidding conditions like those in space. So no surprise at all that in the conditions on early Earth there was plenty of organic chemistry going on, which very, very likely resulted in the first life. "Seeding" of Earth from space I consider much, much less likely, though not scientifically impossible.

      Delete
    39. judmarc
      "What?? Nothing as exotic as panspermia is needed. I meant just what I said: Chemistry, including organic chemistry, is happening all the time, everywhere, even in what we'd consider forbidding conditions like those in space. So no surprise at all that in the conditions on early Earth there was plenty of organic chemistry going on, which very, very likely resulted in the first life. "Seeding" of Earth from space I consider much, much less likely, though not scientifically impossible."

      What do you think the first living cell looked like?

      Delete
    40. My guess (since I'm not a scientist, it's only that) is something along the lines suggested by Eugene Koonin: Not cells, but first self-replicating molecules, then self-replicating molecules on the order of RNA, then protein coats, essentially primitive viruses, but obviously at that point not parasitical like today's viruses, since there'd be no other life to parasitize. Rather they'd be "parasitizing" organic chemicals in the environment.

      Delete
    41. jumarc
      I think that until you clearly define the problem and then understand the steps it is hard to tell how difficult this is. We have simpler life that we can speculate about as Koonin is or we have the simplest observed life that Ventner is experimenting with. There is an enormous technological leap between what Koonin is speculating about and what Ventner is demonstrating. Without knowing this process the claim that nothing as exotic as panspermia is needed is unsupported.

      Delete
    42. Velhovsky,

      While I didn't fall in love with abiogenesis, I disagree that it has no logic, blah,blah, blah. I also doubt that you have any foundations to make such criticisms, since you seem to believe that "god(s)-did-it" is some kind of an answer.

      Delete
    43. Jack Jackson,

      1. Why should anybody/everybody entertain the question of natural versus supernatural beginning of life?

      2. How's considering that living cells could originate by natural processes "beg the question"?

      3. Should we instead consider that life could not originate by natural processes?

      4. On what basis? (How's that not "begging the question"?)

      5. Wouldn't a supernatural origin of life be an oxymoron? (Isn't the supernatural magic being, supposed to be alive?)

      Delete
    44. Suppose I am sitting with a glass of water at my desk when I am called away for a moment. Before I leave I put the glass down, but on my return I find the glass is no longer where I left it, and on the floor lies a pile of broken glass in a pool of water.

      Now, I didn't witness what happened while I was gone, but I would consider some possibilities, all of which are consistent with natural processes. Perhaps one of my cats knocked the glass off the table, or maybe I carelessly placed the glass on another object that caused it to tip over and roll off the desk.

      Among the explanations I would not consider is that God appeared in the room, made the glass of water magically disappear, and then caused a pile of broken glass and a pool of water to appear on the floor, again thru magic. Apparently, by failing to consider this option, some here think I would be "begging he question." Perhaps someone can explain why they feel this.

      Delete
    45. Panspermia is just a tactic used by some to push away the problem they can't explain rationally--the origins of life.
      Here is why; whoever or whatever were responsible for panspermia would have to have an originator/the first cause/designer/source of life.
      Panspermia doesn't answer any questions at all. None, mind you! It actually creates more questions without any answers. Why would anybody support this? Whatever it is.

      Delete
    46. Photosynthesis wrote:

      3. Should we instead consider that life could not originate by natural processes?

      4. On what basis? (How's that not "begging the question"?)

      Because ALL evidence points towards design. Only the blinded that wish a creator not to exist, put faith in impossible scenarios like abiogenesis. The reasons why abiogenesis is impossible are manyfold.

      (Hoyle F., "The Intelligent Universe," Michael Joseph: London, 1983, pp.18

      "The popular idea that life could have arisen spontaneously on Earth dates back to experiments that caught the public imagination earlier this century. If you stir up simple nonorganic molecules like water, ammonia, methane, carbon dioxide and hydrogen cyanide with almost any form of intense energy, ultraviolet light for instance, some of the molecules reassemble themselves into amino acids, a result demonstrated about thirty years ago by Stanley Miller and Harold Urey. The amino acids, the individual building blocks of proteins can therefore be produced by natural means. But this is far from proving that life could have evolved in this way. No one has shown that the correct arrangements of amino acids, like the orderings in enzymes, can be produced by this method. No evidence for this huge jump in complexity has ever been found, nor in my opinion will it be. Nevertheless, many scientists have made this leap-from the formation of individual amino acids to the random formation of whole chains of amino acids like enzymes-in spite of the obviously huge odds against such an event having ever taken place on the Earth, and this quite unjustified conclusion has stuck. In a popular lecture I once unflatteringly described the thinking of these scientists as a "junkyard mentality". As this reference became widely and not quite accurately quoted I will repeat it here. A junkyard contains all the bits and pieces of a Boeing 747, dismembered and in disarray. A whirlwind happens to blow through the yard. What is the chance that after its passage a fully assembled 747, ready to fly, will be found standing there? So small as to be negligible, even if a tornado were to blow through enough junkyards to fill the whole Universe."

      Delete
    47. Barbara-
      I don’t think you missed my point on purpose. I understand what you are saying.

      This is an excellent paper that discusses the origin of life research.
      http://158.195.31.66/rrkkiidd/citacie/Follmann_Darwin_revised.pdf

      I can appreciate that someone could look at this information and conclude abiogenesis has been (all but) demonstrated and that chemical evolution is a fact as the authors claim.
      I fear I am currently stuck with the attitude- “I’ll believe it when I see it.” I think that probably makes me an intractable nut job regarding this topic. I say this because I think we can have good exchanges about some things, I’m not sure this is one of them.

      lutesuite-
      There is no reason to think there wouldn’t be positive evidence- but is there any reason to think there would be positive evidence for that being’s existence?

      judmarc-
      organic chemistry is happening all around us all the time- yet life is not beginning de novo as far as I know. There’s the rub.

      photosynthesis-
      1. Nobody should do anything.
      2. Considering natural processes for the origin of life does not beg the question.
      3. Nobody should do anything.
      4. I don’t know how life began and I as far as I can tell neither does anyone else.
      Claiming to know ‘how it had to have happened’ is ‘begging the question’.
      5. You make a good point. We could define ‘natural’ to mean ‘everything that is’ and the concept of ‘supernatural’ becomes meaningless.
      I would prefer that construct going forward as I have no idea what a ’supernatural’ thing would be anyway.

      Delete
    48. JJ, Way back yesterday, you wrote, "All the disagreements about evolution have to do with where it starts," a clearly false statement.

      You seem to think this origin question is really important for determining whether evolution happens. It's not.

      That's my point. The origin question is very interesting and if the solution were a supernatural being that might have lots of implications for us, but the fact that evolution has been going on for over 3.2 billion years on earth does not depend on the origin question.

      That's my point. That's the only point I have had in this little discussion here.

      It's possible you understand that point and just find it boring, but when you keep arguing with me about tangentially related things, I have to consider that maybe you just didn't understand it at all.

      Delete
    49. "organic chemistry is happening all around us all the time- yet life is not beginning de novo as far as I know. There’s the rub."
      You are making the implicit assumption that conditions now are comparable to conditions then. They ain't. Today Earth is teeming with life, then there was no competition.

      If life started today something would eat it before it got a foothold.

      Delete
    50. And once again Otangelo proves he reads (scientific) literature like he reads his bible. Ignoring text which completely contradict his believes, cherry picking the bits which fit his needs.
      Obviously Otangelo skipped the part where Hoyle is quoted to say:
      "He found the idea that the universe had a beginning to be pseudoscience, resembling arguments for a creator..."

      LOL!

      Delete
    51. Ed

      do i need to agree with everything Hoyle wrote ? Or with his metaphysical beliefs , in order to quote a part of his book which i think elucidates well why abiogenesis is nonsense to the extreme ? When evolution is out of the game, the only mechanisms left to explain biological complexity are chance, or physical necessity ( when the outcome is determined by the physical properties of the elements involved )

      A proeminent poster here argued at another forum that:

      " the ruling forces between molecules affect their binding properties ".

      Hoho. As if that alone would explain the special arrangement of nucleotides that confer functional information to produce proteins....

      what a foolish argument.

      Delete
    52. Why should you need to agree with everything someone wrote? That's not the point.

      Thing is you only cite the bit which confirms your beliefs, but you (conveniently) neglect to mention Hoyle says that a creator is pseudoscience. The creator/ designer is in fact your main 'argument' and why you quote mine Hoyle in the first place. This isn't the first time you've been caught quote mining.

      Secondly, abiogenesis <> evolution. But hey, this has been mentioned to you to, too many times already. Which part of abiogenesis <> evolution do you not seem to be able to comprehend?

      Delete
    53. I think that until you clearly define the problem and then understand the steps it is hard to tell how difficult this is.

      Or you can keep dividing everything into more and more steps until you've got a sort of Zeno's paradox and you've "proved" it's impossible that *anything* ever happened.

      The point is that there is no inconsistency, no huge leap, between the chemistry we call "life" and chemistry elsewhere, so while how life on Earth originated is a fascinating scientific question, it's not in any particularly special class of questions that are *conceptually* very hard. Squaring quantum mechanics and general relativity - now *that's* hard, because the concepts behind the two appear to be in some respects contradictory to each other. But figuring out how ordinary chemical processes that happen all the time led to *other* ordinary chemical processes that happen all the time isn't that type of fundamentally hard problem.

      Delete
    54. @Jack Jackson

      lutesuite-
      There is no reason to think there wouldn’t be positive evidence- but is there any reason to think there would be positive evidence for that being’s existence?


      I'm not sure if that's meant to be a serious question, or just your idea of a joke. But I'll answer as if the former: Yes: The enormous number of things that exist, for whose existence there is evidence.

      Delete
    55. judmarc-
      organic chemistry is happening all around us all the time- yet life is not beginning de novo as far as I know. There’s the rub.


      Jon Fleming gave a very nice answer. Let me give a couple more.

      Why are the viruses we know of today parasites? Because there are infinitely richer sources of what they require for reproduction than chemicals in the environment that aren't in living things. It's the same reason you very likely don't grow or hunt and gather all your own food, and if you tried, your neighbors would soon out-compete you by simply going to the grocery store.

      Also, if viruses were arising de novo these days in some incredibly out of the way corner of the environment where the conditions existed to allow nucleic acids to form and self-replicate, but no bacteria and other viruses existed to out-compete them, how would you know?

      Delete
    56. Now *here's* something on which the religious and non-religious can agree:

      There is no reason to think there wouldn’t be positive evidence- but is there any reason to think there would be positive evidence for that being’s existence?

      I would guess the religious would be as pleased to read you feel there's no evidence of God's existence as the non-religious would be to read you think it's rational to believe in the existence of that for which all evidence is lacking.

      Delete
    57. Barbara-
      I stand by the statement ‘all disagreements about evolution have to do with where it starts.’ Maybe I would be more accurate if I said ‘nearly all’ or ‘many’ instead of ‘all’.

      Let me clarify-

      There is no question microevolution occurs and is occurring. There are new breeds of rose that get registered every year, for example. Bacteria gain resistance to antibiotics.

      There is some question about macroevolution. Obviously nobody can take a unicellular life form and evolve into an elephant, so to conclude something like that happened will involve interpreting the evidence.
      My difficulties with this stem from the fact there are not any ‘ring species’. I think the phenomena should be somewhat ubiquitous, but there are no examples in reality. Not a single one. Maybe I’ll get over this jarring disconnect from what the theory seems to imply and what the actual evidence shows.

      In the meantime I muse- For us to see what we see given microevolution without any macroevolution or limited macroevolution would imply life started a number of different times and in a number of different forms. I’m pleased to say it is an error to think this implies anything supernatural even though those who argue for the supernatural have a similar construct.

      That’s why I say the arguments about evolution are about where it begins.

      Delete
    58. Jon-
      I didn’t mean to imply anything, as far as I know it is a fact life is not arising de novo today.
      Different conditions can yield reactions, so your point about the conditions is valid.
      Doesn’t change the fact, but it might explain it.

      lutesuite-
      Your knowledge of what such a being would do is greater than mine.
      Am I joking? You bet.

      judmarc-
      You make an interesting observation about my ability to come up with constructs that please everyone.
      And it’s OK to laugh at that one.

      Delete
    59. There is some question about macroevolution.

      No, there is not. There is a large number of people who refuse to accept the fact of macroevolution, because they are ignorant, stupid, committed to a religious dogma that refuses to recognize that macroevolution occurs, or (usually) a combination of the above. But that is not nearly the same thing.

      Delete
    60. lutesuite-
      Your knowledge of what such a being would do is greater than mine.


      I won't deny that. But you seem to know that such a being would deliberately obscure all evidence of its existence, so don't be so modest.

      Delete
    61. My difficulties with this stem from the fact there are not any ‘ring species’. I think the phenomena should be somewhat ubiquitous, but there are no examples in reality. Not a single one.

      Oh, is that your problem? Then it's my pleasure to clear that up:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring_species

      As to why your assumption that ring species should be ubiquitous, this article explains why you are wrong there, too:

      http://www.actionbioscience.org/evolution/irwin.html

      So, with all cleared up, you are now free to cast off your ignorance and accept that macroevolution is a fact. If you don't do so, then it is clear something other than mere ignorance is at play here.

      Delete
    62. Ed

      rather than cite Hoyle, i can cite Paley with the watchmaker argument. Its basically the same.

      Again: Hoyles personal beliefs are irrelevant in regard of the issue in question.

      In regard of abiogenesis <> evolution :

      Heredity is guaranteed by faithful DNA replication whereas evolution depends upon errors accompanying DNA replication. ( Furusawa, 1998 )
      DNA replication had therefore to be previously, before life began, fully setup , working, and fully operating, in order for evolution to act upon the resulting mutations. That means, evolution was not a driving force and acting for the emergence and origin of the first living organisms. The only remaining possible mechanisms are chemical reactions acting upon unregulated, aleatorial events ( luck,chance), or physical necessity ( where chemical reactions are forced into taking a certain course of action. ) Since nucleotides can be arranged freely into any informational sequence, physical necessity could not be a driving mechanism. If design, or physical necessity is discarded, the only remaining possible mechanism for the origin of life is chance/luck.

      I am missing something ? Or unable to understand something ? Or getting something wrong ?

      I am more than happy you to elucidate and educate me.

      Delete
    63. rather than cite Hoyle, i can cite Paley with the watchmaker argument.

      LMAO!

      Delete
    64. Another clarification, Jack Jackson:

      I didn’t mean to imply anything, as far as I know it is a fact life is not arising de novo today.

      So what does that mean, exactly? For instance, if someone believed life was created by God, would that fact mean that God no longer exists?

      Delete
    65. lutesuite:

      Not so fast. It may in fact be true that there are no ring species. See this, for example.

      The requirements for a true ring species are exceedingly strict. They may be met so rarely that there are no extant cases.

      Delete
    66. Ah, OK. Thanks, John.

      In the larger sense, of course, that article shows how Jack is still wrong in two senses: It explains that macroevolution can, indeed be demonstrated thru extant organisms, and also that his expectation that true ring series should be "ubiquitous" is the direct opposite of the truth.

      Delete
    67. Ring species -- often not what they seem.

      In the classical sense, a "ring species" was supposed to be a group of very closely related taxa arranged in a ring and having an unusual set of characters. Let's take an example of six taxa arranged in the order 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, with 1 and 6 adjacent or overlapping to close the ring. Ideally, 1 should breed to some extent with 2, 2 should breed with 1 and 3, 3 should breed with 2, and 4, etc. around the ring, but 1 and 6 don't interbreed.

      We would expect ring species to be rare because the right combination of speciation, individual mobility, and geography wouldn't come together often. However, some examples have been reported.

      Unfortunately, all of the ring species reported fall short of the ideal in some way. Often, geographic gaps in the ring are great enough that we can't judge whether, say, species 3 and 4 really can interbreed or not. Or we find that none of the taxa really do interbreed normally if they meet. Or 2 and 3 don't interbreed and neither do 1 and 6, so the ring is broken and we would do better to classify the ring into two species (1-2 and 3-6), each with partially isolated subspecies.

      If no observed “ring species” meets the classical expectation for a ring species, what implication does that have to evolution theory? None.

      The “ring species” is still a group of closely related taxa, separated geographically and showing some differences. They’re still what we’d expect if a single taxon became divided into separate locations and each acquired its own combination of mutations.

      (Note: taxa = plural of taxon. We call a group of populations a taxon if we want to talk about it without specifying whether it is a species, subspecies, taxonomic family, or whatever.)

      Delete
    68. And now I'm back to bwilson295 from Barbara. Aren't computers wonderful things.

      Delete
    69. John Harshman's succinct response went up while I was being verbose. Ah, well.

      Delete
    70. Otangelo:
      "Again: Hoyles personal beliefs are irrelevant in regard of the issue in question."

      So if it doesn't fit your needs it's all of a sudden a personal belief?!? LOL! How typical.
      You quote Hoyle regarding abiogenesis in support of your designer, but when Hoyle regarding the same topic says a creator is pseudoscience it's all of a sudden a personal belief. Yeah right.

      Delete
    71. Otangelo the title (!) of the paper you misquote and clearly don't comprehend, and the following introduction is saying something different than the conclusion you make of it.
      Either you're lying, or you have absolutely no clue what you're talking about. Or is the paper all of a sudden Furusawa's personal opinion because it doesn't fit your believes?

      Delete
    72. Ed

      yes, if Hoyle came to in my view irrational explanations like Panspermia, it does not mean that his example is a EXCELLENT ILLUSTRATION of the problem abiogenesis faces. Namely, luck does not produce complex machines and factories.

      Please point out in what sense i misquote Furusawa, and what exactly about what he wrote i did not understand. What is it exactly that he said, that does not correspond to my conclusion ?

      Mutations result from errors in DNA replication.
      No DNA replication, no mutations, no evolution.

      I am surprised that you argue with me about the most basic fact in biology.

      Delete
    73. RNA viruses don't exist in Otangelo's little fantasy world, it seems.

      Delete
    74. People, let's get real!

      There is as much evidence for maCroevolution as there is for biogenesis, which means = none. They are fairy-tails circulating the "science commuting" with the hopes someone has a valid idea. Obviously Darwin wished that his idea of macroevoluton would become true one day. It didn't. So, what should his followers do, under normal, scientific circumstances?
      At least Darwin didn't leave us in the dark about the origins of life, did he? Why would the followers of his forget about his famous statement? I just can get over...

      "... There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one..."
      There is more to it but it is the first step for now... one would hope.

      Delete
    75. Otangelo, well done, cherry picking all the way. Hoyle's quote in this specific case is as relevant as is his quote about a designer/ creator being pseudo science. You can't have one without the other.
      It seems that these days if a fact is presented which doesn't fit someone's needs it's either a conspiracy or a personal opinion. All of a sudden it's not the claimer who needs to present evidence in favor of his claims (god-did-it), but it's his opponent who should present evidence (there-aint-no-god) against the claim.
      If this method ever makes it into the legal system, it'll grind everything into a full stop. Yes your honor my client was found stabbing the victim with a knife, covered with the blood of the victim, but the prosecutor needs to present alibi's all other citizens of this world are innocent.

      In the scientific community people have tried your method too, ignoring results which didn't suit their needs, only publishing experiments which do fit. This lead to 15 minutes of fame and life long shame for the cold fusion guys.

      "I am surprised that you argue with me about the most basic fact in biology."
      Yes, I'm surprised myself too, because in the months you've been posting stuff here, it's become pretty clear even the most basic facts in biology are way beyond your level of comprehension.

      Delete
    76. Ed

      congrats. I admire your hability of goal post shifting, when it comes to back up your acusations.

      The most relevant sentence in my post above is :

      " Namely, luck does not produce complex machines and factories. "

      Do you agree with this ? Yes or no ?!!

      You wrote

      "All of a sudden it's not the claimer who needs to present evidence in favor of his claims (god-did-it), but it's his opponent who should present evidence (there-aint-no-god) against the claim."

      Well, is that not the common modus operandi of God-deniars ?

      Creationism or intelligent design is false or unproven, therefore, (strong) atheism is true. This is one of the most frequent Logical fallacies in atheism / theism debates. " That is called Affirmative conclusion from a negative premise This illicit negative) occurs when a categorical syllogism has a positive conclusion, but one or two negative premises. Both sides however must be able to present and adopt a well-articulated, thorough-going positive world view based on positive evidence that results in good reasons to infer naturalism or creationism/Intelligent Design. What the debater must present, is a positive case for theism/atheism by reference to the evidence that favours a theistic/atheistic interpretation of reality.
      t
      " In the scientific community people have tried your method too, ignoring results which didn't suit their needs, only publishing experiments which do fit. This lead to 15 minutes of fame and life long shame for the cold fusion guys. "

      Is that not what the entire scientific establishment does ?!! Its actually even worse. There are NO experiments that confirm or permit evident and obvious inferences of naturalism.

      But since it has been esablished a priori, that no design explanations are permitted into the picture, whatever results the scientific experiments lead to, the answer and explanation of given fenomena must be evolution.....

      And when naturalistic explanations are more evidently not rational, like with abiogenesis, evolution is replaced with
      " we don't know yet ". As if naturalism would be the answer, no matter what....

      " it's become pretty clear even the most basic facts in biology are way beyond your level of comprehension. "

      Oh look. And as last dish, the dessert of the menue, a little adhom. Why is it that proponents of naturalism must always play chess like a pigeon ?





      Delete
    77. LOL!

      "Well, is that not the common modus operandi of God-deniars ? "
      We've asked many, many times for proof in favor of your god. You provide no evidence other than evolution can't be true. There's this famous court case in 2005 where the judge said, negative arguments against evolution isn't the same as positive evidence in favor of a god. You need to provide facts to proof there is a god. And so far, you haven't provided ANY proof in support of a god.
      And these sources you hope/ think support god with an out of context quote you mine, at the same time call designers pseudo science or myths. Which you then call personal opinion.

      "Creationism or intelligent design is false or unproven, therefore, (strong) atheism is true".

      Huh, what?? What's atheism got to do with evolution or abiogenesis? Yeah, I agree creationism and ID are unproven though.

      I'm moving goalposts? I'm showing you that an out of context quote mine of Hoyle, you present as proof of a designer, is countered by the simple fact that Hoyle calls a designer pseudo science.

      Now all of a sudden the important sentence is something about luck and factories? Hahaha...

      Delete
    78. Otangelo writes:

      " Namely, luck does not produce complex machines and factories. "

      Do you agree with this ? Yes or no ?!!


      The interesting thing here is that, despite his claim to have studied evolutionary theory in depth, he still does not grasp that evolution does not proceed thru "luck" alone.

      Delete
    79. Ed

      "We've asked many, many times for proof in favor of your god."

      Wow. Just wow. Are you sure you resort now to one of the most boring, and to " dead beaten horse arguments " ?

      Lord, give me patience.....

      There are no proofs that God exists. Do you have proof that the natural world is all there is ? Ask the right philosophical questions : How can we best explain our existence ? On FB i usually use a meme , in order to not waste much time, answering.....

      " You provide no evidence other than evolution can't be true."

      The fact that the physical universe had a beginning, means it had a cause.

      The fact that the universe is finely tuned to the extreme, points to the requirement of a fine-tuner.

      A book requires a author. Nobody in its sane mind would speculate that a book could be written by chance. The information in a book requires the physical medium ( paper, ink ) The information requires the storage medium. One requires the other to bear function. Life requires the setup of a genetic code, and coded Information which is complex and instructional / specified found in epigenetic systems and genes. And it requires the physical storage medium( DNA ), the machinery to extract the information ( RNA polymerase ), and translate it ( ribosomes ) to produce functional proteins. Neither , the software, nor the hardware, would have function, one without the other. Nor is there utility of the ribosome and rna polymerase without DNA and mRNA. That is strong indiciation that both had to emerge together. And that requires intelligence.

      What came first, the TATA Box in the promoter region in DNA, or transcription factors, controlling the rate of transcription of genetic information from DNA to messenger RNA ? What use does one have without the other ? Both must have come into existence in the right exact time.

      Most signal-relay stations we know about were intelligently designed. Signal without recognition is meaningless. Communication implies a signalling convention (a “coming together” or agreement in advance) that a given signal means or represents something: e.g., that S-O-S means “Send Help!” The transmitter and receiver can be made of non-sentient materials, but the functional purpose of the system always comes from a mind. The mind uses the material substances to perform an algorithm that is not itself a product of the materials or the blind forces acting on them. Signal sequences may be composed of mindless matter, but they are marks of a mind behind the intelligent design.

      Energy is required to make power plants and factories, that produce energy. What emerged first, energy, or the enzymes that make energy ?

      Irreducible , interdependent molecular machines and biosynthetic and metabolic pathways in biological systems, and the specific energy supply where its needed, and communication networks and information processing machines in cells point to a intelligent agent as best explanation of their setup and origins.

      Proponents of naturalism on the contrary hope to one day learn how nothing magically can turn into something, or how we can reach now from eternity, how randomness can finetune hundreds of physical parameters to make life possible, how life can emerge from non-life randomly, and produce millions of species with the ability to evolve , and conscient intelligent minds can emerge from matter

      Delete
    80. " Now all of a sudden the important sentence is something about luck and factories? Hahaha..."

      yes. If i would be you, i would not laugh out of incredulity. The fact alone that chance does not produce complex machines and factories smashes the idiotic faith in naturalism into little peaces. It buries naturalism.

      Larry knows it, thats why he frequently delets my posts. They expose how irrational naturalistic explanations are. But he does not like it.....

      And lutesuite brainlessly brings evolution back to the game.
      Oh, if evolution would be the solution of all issues regarding origins. How lovely would that be.

      Unfortunately, IT ISN'T.

      Back to basic biology class:

      Mechanisms: the processes of evolution

      http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/evo_15

      Evolution is the process by which modern organisms have descended from ancient ancestors.

      No ancestors, no evolution. CAPICHE ??!!

      Now Larry will have all hands full and busy to go and delete my posts.

      How trashy and dictatorial and anti democratic this place has become...

      Whatever. Its not my blog...pff.....

      Delete
    81. "The fact that the physical universe had a beginning, means it had a cause."

      Does it now? Please provide evidence of this cause, thus proof in favor of the above mentioned statement.

      And once you've provided evidence in favor of this cause, you'll really need to link the evidence that your god, and only your god, is responsible for this cause.

      Because right now, it's just a statement.

      Good luck!

      Delete
    82. Otangelo wrote:
      "There are no proofs that God exists."

      Well done! You've admitted there's no evidence for (a) god(s).

      "Do you have proof that the natural world is all there is ? "

      The current scientific consensus is yes. If you can provide evidence to the contrary, please do. You're the one claiming there's more than the natural world, it's up to you to provide evidence.

      Once again, good luck!

      Delete
    83. The subject of this post is about how poorly the news reporters report on this subject.
      I am gaining an appreciation for the difficulties they face.

      lutesuite-
      I’m an agnostic. What I know about god is I don’t know about god.
      I hope that saves you time and frustration.

      bwilson295-
      My personal problem with macroevolution aside, I was hoping for some comment about my analysis that disagreements about evolution have to do with where it began.

      Velhovsky-
      Quoting Darwin about the origins of life has not convinced anyone for over 150 years.
      Get real!

      Delete
    84. My personal problem with macroevolution aside, I was hoping for some comment about my analysis that disagreements about evolution have to do with where it began.

      OK, I'll play. That wasn't an analysis; it was a claim. If you're talking about scientific disagreements, then no, they involve all manner of things. The origin of life is one of them, but there are many others: mechanisms, details of relationships, pathways of change, etc. If you're talking about religious disagreements, they're all over the map too. Some people think Jesus guides evolution, some think the world is 6000 years old and there hasn't been any evolution at all, some think species have been magically poofed into existence at various times over billions of years. So you're completely wrong in your conjecture.

      Delete
    85. I’m an agnostic. What I know about god is I don’t know about god.

      Contradiction duly noted.

      Delete
    86. John Harshman,
      You are obviously confused about what you believe in. Why don't you join the club of McDonald's and Coca-Cola believers? They are about to launch their own shit about that. Subtlety though because they don't want to take the blame for things like creating images of say... Santa Clause

      Delete
    87. JJ -- It may be that the only disagreement YOU have with evolution involves the origin of life.

      As a biologist whose work involves evolution, I see a lot of different disagreements about evolution -- not whether it happens, but which processes are most important, whether certain processes can happen (e.g. sympatric speciation), and how evolution has happened in particular examples.

      So your statement is an expression of your interest, and cannot be described as an analysis.

      Delete
    88. John Harshman- bwilson295
      I called my statement a claim earlier. You are correct in that it is a better word to describe my statement.
      You are right, my claim is overly broad. I’ll change it to this-
      ‘Some of the disagreements about evolution hinge on differing concepts of where it began.’
      I was way too carried away with the other statement.

      lutesuite-
      exactly correct about god. Nothing but contradiction.

      Delete
    89. ‘Some of the disagreements about evolution hinge on differing concepts of where it began.’

      That's true, but at the cost of making it much less interesting. All you're saying is that there is disagreement about the original process of abiogenesis. Trivial.

      Delete
    90. I'm also having trouble understanding the significance of your point, Jack Jackson. Maybe it would help if you illustrated it by choosing a specific area of controversy and disagreement in evolutionary theory (e.g. the degree to which group selection operates) and explain how its resolution would be helped if we knew how abiogenesis occurred.

      Delete
    91. No ancestors, no evolution. CAPICHE ??!!

      I have frequently said all those fossils of supposed ancestors were planted by angels carrying out the Deity's particularly piquant sense of humor.

      Oh, and all the genes in bacteria and all other life, too.

      Otangelo, what do you think of "front loading"?

      Delete
    92. Judmarc

      the issue is that without a fully setup self replicating cell, there is no evolution.

      Front - loading makes sense. The creator created life all at once, front loading all information , in order for organisms to be able to evolve, and adapt to the environment.

      Delete
    93. Front - loading makes sense. The creator created life all at once, front loading all information , in order for organisms to be able to evolve, and adapt to the environment.

      Ah, Otangelo, you're beautiful. So the Creator front-loaded organisms to pass their information on to nothing and no one, since there are no ancestors.

      Think about it, maybe you'll figure it out.

      Delete
    94. judmarc

      what ??!!

      The creator created life, fully setup, and able to replicate and pass its genes to the next generation, evolve and adapt to the environment. I thought about it. Makes perfectly sense to me. Where is the problem ?

      Delete
    95. The creator created life, fully setup, and able to replicate and pass its genes to the next generation, evolve and adapt to the environment. I thought about it. Makes perfectly sense to me. Where is the problem ?

      The ability to stave off any normal thinking activity is just amazing, Otangelo. Let's outline this in little baby steps for you, OK?

      "The creator created life, fully setup, and able to replicate and pass its genes to the next generation"

      When this "fully setup" life replicated and passed its genes on to the next generation, that next generation would have the original generation as its ancestors. Except you've said there are no ancestors. (Go look, Otangelo, I'll wait.)

      So you've just told me you strongly believe in "front loading" that is fully able to pass on its genes to where, exactly, Otangelo, if they aren't going to be ancestral to anything?

      Delete
    96. John Harshman-
      Better to repeat things that are less interesting and trivial than to repeat what is known to be false.

      lutesuite-
      My problem has to do with a current doubt about macroevolution.
      Certainly if life can begin in any form, a lack of macroevolution is not a problem.
      But when I think of the starting forms that would be required it seems even more silly than macroevolution does right now. Just because I find something silly doesn’t make it false, but I need really good evidence before I agree to something like that.

      As evidence goes, I found the ring specie to be more convincing than the reports about London mosquitos that are ‘really hard to get to mate’. No worries, if the evidence is good and I keep looking things will come out fine in the end.

      I have to admit I find it amazing that someone else would find it difficult to believe that I actually have a doubt that a single celled life form could evolve into an elephant, but I note many people have no problem believing all sorts of things I have difficulties with, so maybe I’m amazed to be amazed.

      For me it’s just another doubt and confusion on the sea of doubt and confusion that appears to be the essence of my existence. I say that because I’m guessing you will love the poetic.

      Delete
  14. Why do folks pollute Larry's important blog with inane nonsense. This thread degenerates progressively till it is a morass of semi literate idiocy. Stop it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. An important aspect of this blog is addressing and responding to the claims of creationists. It is only proper that creationists have the opportunity to respond in turn. And it is just an unavoidable fact that once creationists open their mouths, little but "semi-literate idiocy" will come spewing out. This is not without value. It is one thing for Larry to refer to creationists as "IDiots". It is quite another for the creationists themselves to show, thru their own words, how accurate that appellation is.

      Delete
    2. Folks do it because the rest of us can't resist arguing and thus giving the attention they want.

      Delete
    3. We should never shy away from refuting ridiculous nonsense no matter how inane it is. There are people reading these threads without participating. Most people can spot the difference between nonsense and reason and will be leaving again with a stark contrast burned into their retinas.

      Delete
  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Speaking of syntheses, here's a synthesis of the recent posts on this blog - science writing for the general public about the Royal Society meeting: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/11/the-biologists-who-want-to-overhaul-evolution/508712/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The author of which has been held up by a number of us, above, in this thread, as an outstanding example of a science writer doing his job well.

      Delete
    2. If that's the case, then perhaps you should also explain why he left out Day 3 and between 1/3 and 2/3 of the actual focus of the event theme: "philosophical and social sciences perspectives"?

      He just assumes 'cultural evolution' is kosher cool nowadays and some people are willing swallow it whole without salt?

      "Gradually, the environment changed from sparse patches of wild plants to dense farm fields. That environment didn’t just drive the evolution of the plants. It also began to drive the cultural evolution of the farmers, too. Instead of wandering as nomads, they settled down in villages so that they could work the land around them. Society became more stable because children received an ecological inheritance from their parents. And so civilization began." - Zimmer

      Externalistic naturalistic nonsense when faced with society and the agential human factor; real people making decisions. And it doesn't take 'just a creationist' to say that anymore. ;)

      Delete
  17. "The fact alone that chance does not produce complex machines and factories smashes"

    News flash: machines and factories are not alive. The "Transformer" movies were not documentaries.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lee Witt

      Cells are the most complex factories in the whole universe.
      Molecular machines are far beyond of complexity and ingeniousity of the most complex machines invented by mankind.

      Any self replicating machine is a engineering marvel, like the Von Neumann universal constructor machine.

      The fact that cells self replicate and the extraordinarly complex process amazes anyone that takes time to actually understand the process. Cell division and DNA replication is a strictly controlled process, which would not function without the necessary repair mechanisms in place right from the start.

      Nobody eighty years ago would have ever dreamed or imagined what happens inside of cells.

      How can someone in its sane mind that actually understands what is involved, believe, cells emerged without guiding intelligence ? Thats irrational to the extreme.





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    2. Creationist "logic", as per Otangelo Grasso:

      "Cells are too complex to have been designed by any intelligent being we know of. Therefore, they could only have been designed by an intelligent being."

      Can you spot the failure in logic, Otangelo?

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    3. "How can someone in its sane mind that actually understands what is involved, believe, cells emerged without guiding intelligence ?"

      By having a working grasp of science? That's not irrational: irrational is believing some supernatural force, undefinable and unobservable, is responsible.

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  18. I have a little training as a reporter.

    The way it works is the reporter gets a subject and then comes up with a ‘slant’ on that subject. Then the reporter pitches the ‘slant’ to the editor who approves or disapproves the piece.
    The reporter then gathers the data that fits the slant of the story, aka cherry picks.
    When the reporter interviews the person who is in agreement with the slant, the reporting will cast that person in a good light.
    If the reporter interviews someone who is in disagreement with the slant of the story it will be to appear unbiased, but the reporter might misquote or take out of context to put the person in disagreement in a bad light.

    To the extent this depiction is accurate, it seems that one might want to be proactive in contacting a science reporter to give them the slant to start with.

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