Archive for Science

Francisco Ayala.

Posted in Atheism, Science with tags , , , , , on January 8, 2009 by tikimexican

I’ll be starting a series of posts based around lectures I’ll be attending that revolve around the theories of Charles Darwin. The aim is to approach the general public with an air of simplicity, not to educate people who already have a strong command of biology. To some they may seem boring, but I see the series as an important public service. The first is a summary of Francisco Ayala.

The first part of the talk consisted of a small review of the historical scene that led to the scientific revolution in the wake of Copernicus and Darwin. A small segway was made to talk about William Paley’s excellent argument as an apologetic. This moved into a more in depth talk of natural selection, how it was proposed by Wallace and a few examples for the non-biologists attending (always important to dispel myths/misunderstandings about natural selection whenever possible). Of course, the classic Peppered Moth Model was represented along with genetic drift in the Hawaiian Archipelagos.

Immediately striking quote! “Now let’s move on to intelligent design, a new version of creationism”. This pretty much set the tone for the next portion of the talk. Here he discusses Michael J. Behe’s theories. Behe’s major argument is irreducible complexity (some things are so complex at the biochemical level that they couldn’t be explained by evolution). The lecture then addressed the simple limpet and Pleurotomaria “eye” evolutionary traces. A glib interpretation is that there was a small assembly of cells that could respond to light, which in another animal took a more efficient shape to gather light, which in a different animal had a refractive lens in the shaped cavity, until eventually you see animals with eyes as accurate as ours. At this point you could actually see the non-biologists in the room as they had all unconsciously started leaning in and paying close attention, the bio nerds were in a quiet/nod loop. After this we talked about the Dover case: pointing out that Judge John E. Jones III was appointed by the current administration got a quick chuckle from the audience. Major points: there is no evidence/research/hypothesis to test, how do we know the intentions of “the designer”, the ID of organisms is imperfect design, ID is contrary to religion: incompatible with an Omnipotent, Wise, and Benevolent Creator (creatures are imperfect, cruelty exists in nature: see chimps killing monkeys, there are oddities: see midge flies, and rampant Sadism: see any form of parasitism), ID asserts that God is:inept, cruel, sadistic, pervert, and the greatest abortionist.

Q&A from the lecture:

All of the answers are paraphrased and reflect the fact that the jerks who are only coming to this class for the credit were leaving to go be jerk-assess somewhere else.

Student-“THe bible speaks of imperfection, so it isn’t a sadistic god, just an imperfect world”

Answer in paraphrase- It doesn’t make sense to interpret the text so that it sits better with your definition. And I said that the god of ID is the one that I call sadistic. Think of the Odyssey and the problem of free will, and you will see the world as confusing. Now think of plants without free will and you arrive at a problem when you try to explain benevolent design.

Student-“Why is god a great abortionist”

Answer-because of chromosomal arrangment issues 20% pregnancies are lost before the woman is even aware of being pregnant. This is a defect in design problem.

Student-“Is there a place for christian apologetics in science”

Answer-Why not? There are arguments that are incompatible but they can approach different subjects and different themes.

Student-“In accepting evolution and natural selection, why is it that only we are able to use tools.”

Answer-other species use tools, but nothing comparable to humans. I don’t know, you have two explanations one from sciecne and one from faith. 150 MYA there were animals that could use tools that later became us, the logical explanation as to why only we are here, is that we are here. It may have been possible that more species would have arrived at our level of technology but it may be that we simply out-competed those species.

Student-“Are there religions besides christianity that espouse ID”

Answer-In terms of creationism there are more active supporters, especially in Turkey, that are now becoming part of teh discussion. Islam can be said to have a strong creationist support base.

Student-something about cartesian dualism

Answer-one day we will be able to explain human emotion and sentiment in a reliable way, but the way many theologians look at it there iss something that science cannot explain. Human being, was formed from an egg in the mother’s womb… I couldn’t hear

Student-“The public sees ID vs. evolution, shouldn’t it be unintelligent Design vs. evolution, why don’t we see evidence of an unintelligent

Student-Infinite regression question

Answer-I don’t want to enter into psychology where I’m not as qualified to speak as to why people can’t see the logic in that answer. Talks about Richard Dawkins anecdote where Richy says we’ll make humans rational within 50 years, I disagree.


Computers AND proteins?

Posted in Science with tags , , , , on December 30, 2008 by tikimexican

Wowee, there’s two things I love in life: computers and proteins. Computers represent the future, and possibilities. Proteins are biological wonders that are amazing subjects of study. When one is used to understand the other, my heart beats faster. It skips a beat when the combo is something I’ve waited/hoped for.

A research group made up of scientists from Scripps Research Institue, with colleagues from UCSD have come up with an accurate way to predict how bacterial proteins fold AND interact. To anyone interested in biology you have to see this as an amazing development. Protein study is one of the most interesting and useful areas of study particularly when it comes to pathology. Now that there is a way to predict bacterial protein interaction, think of how much more efficient searches for new antibiotics or protein directed therapies will be.

Besides the usefulness it’s a really intersting implementation of a lot of data handling methods. Check out the link to get your dose of science, and see if you get as excited as I am.

Fuck yeah.

New Technique Is Quantum Leap Forward In Understanding Proteins