Thursday, February 27, 2014

Physicians and engineers are not scientists

Creationists are fond of mentioning people who are committed to creationism but still function as successful scientists. We saw an example in the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. These creationist "scientists" are often physicians or engineers.

It seems obvious to most of us that engineers and physicians are not scientists. PZ Myers mentions this on his blog when he discusses the debate as reviewed by William Saletan: Saletan is at it again. Here's what PZ says ...
Engineers can practice real science, but an engineer is not the same thing as a scientist. I agree that creationists can be perfectly good engineers, but how can you trust the scientific acumen of someone who insists that the earth is only 6,000 years old? That says right there that they have no respect for the evidence. How can Saletan ignore Ham’s bogus distinction between historical and observational science, in which he flatly rejects any possibility of inference about the past from the present? This creationism is utterly incompatible with biology, anthropology, geology, astronomy, climate science, geochemistry, cosmology, and any other science that deals with cause and effect and history. These sciences apparently do not matter to Saletan, as long as engineers make satellites and doctors do surgery.

Saletan cites Ham’s videos as falsifying the claim that creationism is incompatible with science. Ken Ham makes a big deal of this, too.
This would be unremarkable except that Jason Rosenhouse disagrees [Saletan vs. Myers on Nye vs. Ham]. Here's what Jason says ...
Oh for heaven’s sake! Engineers are scientists. Full stop. Are you really that desperate to deny that a creationist could ever make a contribution to science that you will sink to this level of insult and idiocy? (Yes, it is insulting to suggest that engineers are not scientists.)
Engineers have a Bachelor's degree in engineering and they typically work for a construction company or in the IT department of a large corporation. They are not scientists. Full stop.

It's true that some engineers do science but usually they have a higher degree in engineering and usually they are academics. There's no possible way you could assume that all engineers are scientists just because they are licensed engineers and wear the ring. I'm sorry, Jason, but you are wrong.

Similarly, the typical physician has a private practice at a strip mall in the suburbs. They have an M.D. degree that can be earned right out of high school (in Europe). They are not scientists.

There are some physicians who are scientists and some of them have earned Nobel Prizes. They are the exceptions, not the rule. It's ridiculous to assume that everyone with an M.D. is a scientist.

A mind like that is a disgrace to the human species

Here's a five year old video where Richard Dawkins points to molecular phylogenies as powerful evidence of evolution. He wonders how any creationist could deny the evidence of evolution and suggest that "a mind like that is a disgrace to the human species."

He must have been thinking about Cornelius Hunter because Hunter has resurrected the video in order to show why Dawkins is wrong [Richard Dawkins: How Could Anyone "Possibly Doubt the Fact of Evolution"]. Watch the video and then read what Cornelius Hunter says. You'll recognize some elements of truth in his criticism but you'll also recognize a common creationist fallacy; namely, an inability to see the forest because you've been staring too long at the bark on trees.

What is amazing is the evolutionist’s high confidence and self-assuredness in such a blatant misrepresentation of science. It would be difficult to imagine a bigger falsehood. Phylogenetic incongruence is rampant in evolutionary studies. Conflicts exist at all levels of the evolutionary tree and throughout both morphological and molecular traits. This paper reports on incongruent gene trees in bats. That is one example of many. These incongruences are caused by just about every kind of contradiction possible. Molecular sequences in one or a few species may be out of place amongst similar species. Or sequences in distant species may be strangely similar. As one paper admitted, there is “no known mechanism or function that would account for this level of conservation at the observed evolutionary distances.” Or as another evolutionist admitted, the many examples of nearly identical molecular sequences of totally unrelated animals are “astonishing.”

An even more severe problem is that in many cases no comparison is even possible. The molecular sequence is found in one species but not its neighbors. When this problem first became apparent evolutionists thought it would be resolved as the genomes of more species were decoded. No such luck—the problem just became worse. Not surprisingly evolutionists carefully prefilter their data. As one paper explained, “data are routinely filtered in order to satisfy stringent criteria so as to eliminate the possibility of incongruence.”

Short genes that produce what are known as microRNA also contradict Dawkins’ high claim. In fact one evolutionist, who has studied thousands of microRNA genes, explained that he has not found “a single example that would support the traditional tree.” It is, another evolutionist admitted, “a very serious incongruence.”

Another paper admits that “the more molecular data is analysed, the more difficult it is to interpret straightforwardly the evolutionary histories of those molecules.”

And yet in public presentations of their theory, evolutionists present a very different story. As Dawkins explained, gene comparisons “fall in a perfect hierarchy, a perfect family tree.” This statement is so false it isn’t even wrong—it is absurd. And then Dawkins chastises anyone who “could possibly doubt the fact of evolution.” Unfortunately this sentiment is typical. Evolutionists have no credibility.

On the absurdity of an atheist using the argument from evil

Gary Gutting interviews atheist Louise Antony in the New York Times [Arguments Against God]. Here's part of the interview ...
L.A.: Knowledge in the real world does not entail either certainty or infallibility. When I claim to know that there is no God, I mean that the question is settled to my satisfaction. I don’t have any doubts. I don’t say that I’m agnostic, because I disagree with those who say it’s not possible to know whether or not God exists. I think it’s possible to know. And I think the balance of evidence and argument has a definite tilt.

G.G.: What sort of evidence do you have in mind?

L.A.: I find the "argument from evil" overwhelming — that is, I think the probability that the world we experience was designed by an omnipotent and benevolent being is a zillion times lower than that it is the product of mindless natural laws acting on mindless matter. (There are minds in the universe, but they’re all finite and material.)
The argument from evil goes like this ...
  1. Assume that supernatural, omnipotent beings exist.
  2. Assume that they are kind and benevolent and they have the power and desire to create human societies that will be kind and good.
  3. Therefore, because evil is commonplace, one of the assumptions must be wrong.
An atheist is concerned about whether supernatural beings exist so why in the world would they pay any attention to the premises of this argument? If I were to accept the premise that supernatural omnipotent beings exist then the argument from evil simply leads to the conclusion that the supernatural beings are evil (like Satan) or they don't much care about us, like the Greek gods.

The argument from evil says nothing about whether gods exist or not. It only refers to particular kinds of gods and the only way an atheist should pay any attention to it at all is if they are willing to concede that some sort of gods must exist. Then, and only then, can they enter into a discussion about what kinds of gods exist. In that sense, the argument from evil is about as useful as the Courtier's Reply.

I wish atheists would stop discussing the argument from evil because all it does is show that some gods are possible while others are unlikely. I do not see why Louise Anthony finds the argument convincing because it's perfectly consistent with the existence of Satan.

It's also perfectly consistent the god of the Old Testament (see above). That god is exactly the sort of god that that would create a human society full of evil. Humans are behaving just like the god they worship. What's the problem?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Why the creationists love the 1980 Chicago meeting on macroevolution

A meeting on macroevolution was held at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago in October 1980. Normally these meetings would not attract much attention from the press but in this case there was an article published in Discover a month before the meeting took place that suggested something revolutionary was in the wind. Stephen Jay Gould discusses the episode in The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (pp. 981-986).

The article in Discover referred to "growing dissent from the prevailing view of Darwinism" and mentioned that there would be a meeting in Chicago. As a result of this article, a bunch of journalists turned up at the Chicago Macroevolution meeting expecting fireworks.

There was a lot of talk about punctuated equilibria at the Chicago meeting and how the ideas of Eldredge and Gould conflicted with the gradualism that was part of traditional Darwinian evolution. This is complicated stuff so it's no wonder that many journalists misinterpreted the discussion as support for the idea that evolution was being challenged as the creationists claimed.

Read more »

Anthony Vaccarello F/W 2014 Show

Time: February 25, 2014 at 6:00 pm
Location: Paris
Models: Sam Rollinson, Svetlana Zakharova, Anna Selezneva, Sasha Luss

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Eliza Cummings - Tush Magazine - January 2014

Photography: Txema Yeste
Stylist: Bernat Buscato
Hair: Danilo
Makeup: Tyron Machhausen

My molecular evolution midterm test

My students wrote the midterm test today. Here are the questions. They had to answer the first question and 4 other questions (out of 5). How would you do?
  1. What’s the most important new thing about molecular evolution that you have learned in this course so far? Explain your answer by describing your "important new thing."
  2. If mutation rates are relatively constant then why does the molecular clock tick at different rates in different proteins?
  3. Many evolutionary biologists think that population genetics is the key concept in understanding evolution but biology students often complete several years of courses without ever learning about effective population sizes, mutation rates and the importance of random genetic drift. Why? Is it because population genetics is not a necessary key concept in evolution?
  4. Grad students at this university publish a journal called Hypothesis. A few years ago (2005) there was a student who wrote ...
    I am a grad student, and long hours at the bench have got me thinking of other things lately, including the idea of marriage. I came up with a few criteria to direct me on my quest for a wife, and near the top of the list was that she needs to know what a gene is. I thought that this would be a reasonable thing to ask for. I like learning about how we and the rest of life work, and knowing how, in a general sense, cells are programmed to do what they do is a pretty good indicator of similar interest. My friends, however, disagreed with me, and on several occasions, as I shared my list, I feared that things were going to get violent. They argued that I will never get married with such a short-sighted and elitist attitude.
    Imagine that you would only seek partners who knew what a gene was. What definition would you require and why?
  5. What’s the best evidence that a substantial amount of our genome is junk?
  6. Imagine that you are teaching a class and you ask students to calculate a mutation rate in humans based on what they know about biochemistry. What mistakes are they most likely to make and why?