Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Quote: Pliny the Younger to Emperor Trajan

On Christianity,

Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition.

Christianity: depraved, excessive superstition since 111 CE.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Darwin and the Fossil Record.

I don't see many people calling "bullshit" properly on the apologetic that the fossil record is some kind of Achilles heel to the theory of evolution. The fossil record is actually great evidence for Darwin's theory and the objection he rendered to his own theory actually implies something vastly different than we are lead to suppose.

But just in proportion as this process of extermination has acted on an enormous scale, so must the number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory. The explanation lies, as I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record.
- Chapter 9, On the Origin of Species

He says that if his theory is true there should be a lot of previous life forms that aren't found in the fossil record. To explain why geology does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chains, he suggests that the fossil record is extremely imperfect. He's right. We understand the processes involved and have a better view of the fossil record and significantly more fossils than we did in Darwin's time. He was specifically saying that his theory calls for a lot more organisms than we're finding in the fossil record and the explanation for this is that the fossil record is much much worse than many people of the day were advocating.

Rather than an Achilles heel to his argument, this would seem to be a remarkable prediction of his theory. That his theory predicts that there were massive numbers of gradually changing ancestors to all the species on the planet and the reason we didn't find them in the fossil record is that fossil folk are grossly wrong about how very very few fossils we have. We have good areas of fossils and a lot of really good fossils, but Darwin never suggested that we needed all these fossil but rather suggested that there were massive gaps in the fossil record, a fact we know to be true. If life forms don't evolve than one could be sated to believe that a new fossil represented a new species that was created by God wholecloth out of nothing. There's no reason to think anything is missing.

Darwin said we were missing large tracts of fossils.
Today we understand that we are missing large tracts of fossils.

Darwin was right. It's not a condemnation of his theory it's yet another example of Darwin making an amazing prediction by using his theory that we later confirmed to be absolutely right. Next time a creationists gabs on about how there are massive gaps in the fossil record, you can understand that this fact was *PREDICTED* by Darwin. You could tell them, but it might be akin to talking to a coffee cup.

It's just something to think about.

Godless Girl

Monday, September 21, 2009

Earth, the third rock...

About half the time (probably a bit less than half), Earth isn't third rock from the Sun.

Trying my hand at mocking again...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Dollhouse, almost good. (wha?)

Apparently Dollhouse had planned a great closer (with things left open) episode in case the show got canceled and didn't get a second season. However, watching the episode "Epitaph One" just kind of reminds me how crappy the show is. This episode is actually Firefly quality (I don't say that lightly). And they have the first episode thus far when they stop being whores. I'm very annoyed by the whole, "they are all whores" thing and the show has so much potential but seems to pretty slowly drudge on with silly plots about people being hunted by crazy people shooting arrows at main characters and such. It's a bit like my suggestion at the time to save the long canceled Hidden Palms.

TV is so depressing sometimes.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Quote of the Day: Robert Ingersoll

A fact never went into partnership with a miracle. Truth scorns the assistance of wonders. A fact will fit every other fact in the universe, and that is how you can tell whether it is or is not a fact. A lie will not fit anything except another lie.

-- Robert Green Ingersoll

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What science is and why religion gets no credit for the Big Bang.

Science is a process of making models to describe the world less and less wrong. What explained 99.5% of the data is fixed and expanded to explain 99.9% of the data and then 99.99% of the data. The best a good theory can do is explain 100% of the current data we have available which is why when we find an exception and something that isn't explained by the theory we finally have an opportunity to expand and refine our theory and make it less wrong. The truth of an idea, not only, must be conducted by explaining all of the current data but all of the future data as well. If you get distinct and new data that fits perfectly into the current theory or data that is predicted as an expansion of the theory... that's good science.

Did science accept the steady state universe just to destroy God? Wasn't that a step backwards?

When science accepted a steady state universe there were good reasons to accept this. There was no data to suggest that the universe had a beginning. In fact the considerable amount of evidence seemed to firmly support the unchangingness of the heavens as observed by Aristotle in his book On the Heavens. This was first refined when one of the later Aristotelian thinkers observed what was probably a supernova that showed that the unchangingness of the aether was false and we should start writing down what the sky is doing and looks like. From the origins of science the observations were firmly on the side of the universe being largely unchanged and immutable. The Big Bang only became an acceptable theory in the 1960s with the discovery of the CMBR.

There are real examples of stepping backwards.

One need look no further than Copernicus the first of the modern heliocentrists who wrongly insisted that the planets traveled at constant speed and distance from the sun. This oversight lead to heliocentrism stagnating as Ptolemy's towering genius laid out a way of figuring the epicycles (the little bits where the planets seem to go backwards because the earth passes them in orbit) of the planets and this model can give exact locations of the planets at anytime. Whereas Copernicus for being right, stripped out the varying speeds and ended up with a system that couldn't properly calculate the position of the planets. The Copernican system was largely inexact and didn't work very well until Kepler restored the Ptolemy assumption of varying speeds. Which after Newton invented calculus (precisely to solve this problem) made the heliocentric model simpler and more able to do the same precision of calculations as Ptolemy could.

Though placing the sun at the center was certainly more correct, it didn't explain more of the data, it did create a much simpler model. However this simply lead to hybrid models where heliocentric models were used in theory and Ptolemy was invoked when calculations needed to be done.

However, the end result is that science progresses. Even if it needs to go through ebbs and flows. At no point did we accept the worse calculations while tangentially accepting the better theory (at least after Galileo). However, it was not a scientific belief that the universe had an origin from the dawn of science. The data we had were of a universe that didn't seem to vary much at all. It wasn't until we started seeing different stuff in the distant parts of the universe (and thus in the distant past) that were different, detected the red shifted hiss of the big bang, and observed as the universe flung apart that we accepted the theory.

As there are only two possible considerations that the universe began or the universe didn't, there isn't much credit to be given to having picked one on the basis of no evidence. The history of science has always been that of an unchanging universe. Similarly that seems the thrust of most religious thoughts as well. God made the universe one day, just as it is today. There's a pretty considerable difference between the theology of creation and the science of the Big Bang. In fact, I've seen a number of Bible Believing Christians attack the Big Bang theory precisely because of these differences.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Norman Borlaug, hero, is no more.

Norman Borlaug died today.

He saved more than a billion lives and kicked off the green revolution. The world is a little worse off today.

Brilliant things in distant places: Neo-Newtonainism?

Hips do not change accordingly to a species' wishes, moreover, there is no "requirements" in mutations, there's no such thing like "a trait that needed shifts". The word "needed" is non-sensical in this context. Further on, the 7 million years is not just to get bipedal, it's to get to Cro Magnon, or to a look-alike (which means a look-alike of us, skeleton-wise).

What molecular biology delivered us is the certainty that if the 3% active part of the genome (90 million bases) need to be changed for the assumed 1% genetic difference between humans and chimps in this active part, that's a required change in 1 million different bases. This is where the proposals came from to stop talking neodarwinism and rather speak about extended evolutionary synthesis of similar terms - simply because there's way too much changes to Darwinism & neo-Darwinism (that would be like talking about neo-Newtonianism all the time). And that's simply the acknowledgement of Darwinian theory (the kind of "a bit of hip modification" theories as you mention) being largely insufficient. When we start considering molecular buffering systems and all that jazz, that's not Darwin's theories anymore - not even by a mile's length. Of course, everything is build upon everything - but that's not the point here. (Einstein has build upon Newton - but we don't call it neo-Newtonian gravity).


The 3% of our genome that codes for things has about 1% that doesn't code for things but triggers and influences the genes. Just looking at the protein changes gives one a very incorrect view as most of the changes between chimps and humans as well as between humans and other apes are changes in the gene regulation. We are built with the same set of tools, but built in different ways.

Neodarwinism is simply a reaction to genetics figuring out heredity. The reason we use neodarwinism is because it explains things that Darwin didn't know and fleshes out the parts of the theory that were not very good because Darwin didn't have genetics. It's not Darwin's version of evolution because it's better by having a functional model of heredity. It's still evolution as Darwin laid out in his day, but it's a new kind of Darwinian evolution, it's neo-darwinism.

The changes between the two is largely just a shift of bringing genetics into the fold. That's what changed. The base theory is there, and if you want to learn more about evolution, I'd actually recommend The Origin of Species as a good book on the subject.

We refer to Einsteinian physics and Newtonian physics because these men largely established that understanding of physics. Newton wasn't wrong and certainly did physics a great favor by expounding on the subject. However Einsteinian physics can rederive Newtonian physics but does not need to as it stands on it's own. In many ways he didn't build on Newton but rather expounded on Physics and was right, in much the way that Newton was right... and then some. Einstein can derive Newton's physics but it is not simply a modified version, it's a new version altogether and a radically different way of seeing the entire universe.

However, that's not to say there isn't exactly what you're so oddly suggesting. One major player in some very modern debates is MOND or MOdified Newtonian Dynamics seeks to modify Newton's equations to account for the observations we see with galaxies. The math of solving the for the rotation of a galaxy using Einstein is too hard, so we cheat and use Newton and as a result find our math is off by an order of magnitude. So we propose Dark Matter to account for this in invisible halos around all galaxies. MOND proposes we modify the equations as Newton's equations only have been demonstrated for very low velocity objects.

Just as Modified Newtonian Dynamics modifies what Newton did, neodarwinism adds to what Darwin put forth. Most of your post simply fails to understand the differences between Newton and Einstein. They have radically different equations for figuring out how the universe works, which isn't to say that they are wrong. Just that Einstein is less wrong than Newton and his equations account for more of the universe than Newtons' did. Einstein didn't modify Newton, he described the universe again in a new way. This is something that nobody has done since Darwin. Darwin's theory is still at the core of all biology. Evolution by natural selection has been expanded and promoted as the underlying explanation. Darwin makes biology make sense. Much of biology over the last 150 years has been adding to Darwin and making his suppositions into facts and his arguments into observed reality.

Neodarwinism pulled genetics into evolution just as Evodevo is poised to bring in developmental biology, genetic expression, embryology, and other somewhat dispersive fields into the explanations of evolution largely due to molecular genetics showing how genetics achieves development, which in turn, shows how these developmental changes evolved and how evolution changes the development of organisms.

I feel like a cat bringing you folks the corpse of a half eaten lizard. But, as I'm pretty sure all my great points are just going to fall on deaf ears I need to preserve it. I mean, I spend a good amount of time writing brilliant things to not brilliant people. If I punched a hole in a wall, I'd take a picture of it and post it to the blog too. That way my unseen posts will be unseen by more people.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

What the Ancients Did For Us.

As a fan of history of science this is a very nice find. It was referenced in a podcast with Richard Carrier discussing the history of science.

Part 1. Part 2. Both quite worth the time involved. Even if you don't care about the apologetics book in reference.

Having found a copy of the videos, I must post them. They are just fantastic.


America makes me sad.

A Darwin biopic doesn't get a distributor but Expelled does? Seriously?

Critics really like this movie whereas Expelled was shit. I'm not talking on substance but actually filming. It was long and boring and crazy terrible.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Humans from a single pair?

A theist wrote me as part of a longer post:

The idea of all humans originating from one single human pair was a brilliant insight not found in all cultures.

To which I replied:

The idea of all humans coming from a single human pair is firstly scientifically wrong, and secondly found in most mythologies. I'm at a loss as to recall one that doesn't have a first couple from Odin making Ask and Embla out of driftwood to the Navajo myth of the insect people traveling to the fifth world and making the first man and woman or the Apache myth of creator making Girl Without Parents and Small Boy out of dirt from his hands rubbing together into clumps.

I really am at a loss here. Is there any mythology that doesn't start with a first couple? Does anybody know of a creation story that doesn't explain the first couple but the first group of humans larger than two or something that would qualify as not a first two humans story?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

You gotta serve somebody?

There are a few great musical replies to nonsense, this is one of them.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Monkey vs. Tigers

You know, I've been racking my mind as to how to pretend there's an evolutionary reason for this behavior for a joke like why do monkeys have brown fur (to blend in with the coconuts). I can't even figure out a fake reason. It's funny as hell and that's the honest to goodness reason.