Posts Tagged ‘Science’

Answers for Eight questions for Evolutionists

he_who_is_nobody
he_who_is_nobody
Tue Mar 18, 2014 1:48 pm by he_who_is_nobody

(Ian Juby, seen here playing a scientist)

Last month Ian Juby asked eight questions for us silly evolutionists to answer. Here are my answers in the order they were asked.

 

 1) Let’s start at the beginning: How did the first life arise? If you have no life, then you have no evolution. Following the laws of science and nature, how did that first life arise?

 

We do not know, yet. However, saying that we do not know does not open up the question for Juby to insert a god(s). Modern science’s inability to answer this question completely is not a victory for magic (a.k.a. creationism).  However, I would encourage Juby to look into the field of abiogenesis. Lots of progress has been made in that field in the past decade.

 

 2) How do you explain the origin of Grand Canyon without a world wide flood?

 

Seeing as how a worldwide flood does not and cannot account for the Grand Canyon, I will give a truncated explanation for it. The layers one observes in the Grand Canyon were laid down at different times. Near the bottom of the canyon, one can easily see an angular unconformity, where the land was laid down horizontally, than uplift happened to one side raising that side higher than the rest. Erosion than happened, which flattened down the raised layers to an even plain, after that, more layers of sediment were laid down on top of the angular unconformity. Some of these layers are made up of limestone, which cannot form rapidly in an aquatic environment; others are made up of sandstone that had to have come from a vast desert. Both of those observations alone expose that the earth is not young and there was not a worldwide flood in recent history.

After all the layers were formed, the Colorado River started to make its way across the area were the Grand Canyon is now found. It was once a slow meandering river, which one is able to see when looking down on the Grand Canyon (it meanders around the Colorado Plateau). Slowly the Colorado Plateau uplifted making the Colorado River cut down into it more and more. This is how the Grand Canyon was formed.

Again, this is a truncated response, one could write a whole book about the history of the Grand Canyon.

 

 3) How do you explain the copious numbers of dating methods which point to a young earth, and a young universe?

 

One wonders what Juby means by copious, because as far as modern science is concerned there are no dating methods that point to a young earth or young universe. Perhaps Juby could point some out.

 

 4) What scientifically factual information can you supply to support your contention that the universe is billions of years old? Don’t give me your assumptions and theories, and don’t give me the speed of light problem because it’s also a problem for you, and I already answered it with my response. I want scientifically factual information.

 

Seeing as how Juby will not accept the speed of light (i.e. the only reason we can see stars billions of light years away is that their light had to travel billions of light years to get here) I guess we will have to settle for our observations of the cosmic microwave background radiation, globular clusters, white dwarf stars and radiometric dating. All of those establish the universe to be billions of years old.

 

 5) How do you explain the origin of information, such as the information contained in the DNA, without violating the laws of thermodynamics?

 

Well, it would be nice if Juby defined information for us. Using the correct definition of information when talking about DNA (Shannon information), information can arise in a system without violating the laws of thermodynamics. No doubt Juby will take issue with this, but that is because Juby tries to equivocate the different definitions of information in his arguments.

 

 6) How do you explain the PRESERVATION of the information in our DNA over MILLIONS and MILLIONS of years, seeing as how thermodynamics is observably and quickly removing bits and pieces of that information in every single generation? 

 

Since Juby again does not define information, one can only assume he is talking about Shannon information. It is untrue to say that thermodynamics is removing bits and pieces every generation. Thus, this question is invalided because it is based off a flawed premise.

 

 7) How did sex arise? Seeing as how there are miriads of sexual reproduction systems in organisms, pretty much NONE of which are compatible with one another in reproduction. See CrEvo Rant # 13 Ian’s Sex Video for the quick low down on the problems you face in explaining this dilema. I’m not interested in sexual fantasies of how one system evolved into the other, I’m interested in factual, scientific evidence – observed changes, like any good scientist would expect of a theory.

 

Once again, we do not know the exact answer, yet. However much like the first answer I gave, science not knowing an answer does not make room for Juby’s god(s).

 

 8) Do you think your brain was intelligently designed? And if not, then how can you trust your thoughts if they are the result of unintelligent, undirected forces? Random chemistry?

 

This question is a vague attempt to insult proponents of evolution, and never fails to make me laugh when I see it. Of course our brains are not intelligently designed; they are a product of natural and sexual selection. However, just because they were not intelligently designed does not mean our thoughts are based on unintelligent, undirected forces. The reason we can trust our thoughts is based on knowledge that we obtain through experience or learning. Because we live in a natural world, were the laws of physics do not change on a whim, we can base our prior experiences and knowledge on the facts of reality in order to gain a deeper understanding of the world around us.

Hat tip to Bill Needle for transcribing the questions used above. 

Science writing: Tools

Inferno
Inferno
Tue Jan 14, 2014 12:24 am by Inferno

I’ve not given up on my other posts, I’m just not in the mood for them at the moment. Politics is generally pissing me off because we have such a shitty government and I don’t want to write about schools at the moment, just because. 😉

OK, now on to what’s currently happening. I’m in the middle of writing a paper for a journal, I’m writing a mock-paper for a seminar and I’m writing my Bachelor’s Thesis. Naturally, my mind is preoccupied with academic writing.

I’ve found a few wonderful papers on how to read a paper (Inception, isn’t it?) and I will try to put a list together soon. (So anywhere between 6 and 12 years.) For the moment however, I want to focus on a few tools I use to organize my papers, find sources, put everything together and just generally make my academic life easier.

 

First up, my computer. I own a crappy, 4-year old laptop. It’s loud, it’s slow and dang, does it heat up. So for those times I want to read/write in my bed, I bought a cooling pad. You can have them for 5$ a piece, I bought mine in Sweden and it’s of slightly superior quality so I had to put down 30$.

The laptop itself has 4Gig Ram, 2.1GH and a Radeon HD 5145. That means I can use most graphics programs out there, including Adobe Photoshop and Video programs. I don’t need those, but I do occasionally put together pictures/graphics, for that I use photoshop.

Another thing you absolutely need is an external hard drive. I got my 500GB (more than enough for working purposes) for a little under 80$ and that was ages ago. You can now get 1TB for the same price. (Don’t forget the 1. If you just get TB, that’s money badly spent!) On that HDD, you want to store your papers and make backups of your computer. I’ve had a colleague in who lost his BA’s Thesis and damn, was he fucked.

Also essential: A few (2-3 minimum) USB-drives. I’ve got one with 2GB, 4GB and 8GB each, plus a few others. One of them is a second backup for my library, the others I use for current writing. Also essential: Create a dropbox or mediafire account and upload your work. My complete library of papers, books and University-related stuff currently runs at just over 2GB, plus another 1GB of video-lectures. Mediafire gives you 50GB, Dropbox 5GB, so that’ll easily fit.

 

Now that you’ve got the potential of storing your files, you need some stuff to organize them, find files and write them.

Most importantly: A browser.
I personally use Chrome, but have used Firefox before. Both are good, depending on what you need. I prefer Chrome because of the layout and usability, but again I wouldn’t mind using Firefox. I haven’t used Mobile, I would discourage you from using Safari and IE and I’d probably not use Opera, though I have in the past.

 

So assuming you’re running Chrome, I’ll run you through my extensions. Because I’m a cruel computer user and leave about 10-15 tabs open at any given time, I use Xmarks to synchronize my tabs and bookmarks. If ever I lose them or my browser crashes and Chrome’s inbuilt safe-system fails, I just click on Xmarks and re-open my tabs. Handy, but not essential.

Next up, Lazarus Form Recovery. Have you ever written a perfect post, your browser died and your post was gone? Well, Lazarus has (so far) saved me from re-writing about 10k words. That’s quite a bit.

I’ve already written about Unsourced and Rebutr before, so I’m not going to repeat myself. Problematic: I’m not using them any more, they’re just not updated quickly enough.

Now for the jewels in my collection. First up, I own a Kindle as of last week. It’s not only 40$ and it really makes your life easier, so don’t be a snob, buy one. Install sendtoKindle and it will give you an excellent little extension on your browser. You see a document you might want to read, you click on the extension and send it to your Kindle. The size is adapted so you can easily read it and the format is great. With this extension, I’ve already sent about 20 science-y articles to my Kindle, so now I can ride the metro and catch up on my reading. (My only problem: PDFs are huge! My Kindle should be able to fit 1400 books, but after about 50 PDFs it’s about halfway full.)

The second extension may be even better: Evernote Web Clipper, in addition to the Desktop-version of Evernote. With it, you can save articles (or pictures) from the web. Just search them in your browser, click the extension and save the article, save it as a PDF, take a screenshot… etc. In the desktop-version, they synchronize automatically, you can then organize them using folders or tags, depending on what you like. It saves the URL, you can read the complete article (depending on how you saved it without comments (eg. blogs) and without ads) and you can write in the article. Holy shit this thing is awesome! You can also export them as PDFs (for use on your Kindle) and you can sync it with your smartphone.
Obviously you can also use it the way it was intended to: As a digital scrap book.
Additionally, you can network with people. I’m currently exchanging information with my Professors at University. Any article they deem worthy of my interest, they send me with one click. And vice versa. Networking bitches, it’s fun!

 

Furthermore, I run a few programs on my computer that are not attached to my browser. I’ve got the usual anti-spyware/anti-virus software (AVG in my case), I’ve got some pc-performance programs (DLL-Files Fixer at 15$ and TuneUp Utilities 2014 for 25$) and a few programs for keeping in touch. (E-Mail organizers for my 3 different E-Mail accounts, Skype, Teamspeak, etc.)

One of the programs I use is Light Image Resizer. Sometimes I need to send in a JPG in a different format, make it smaller, make it bigger, etc. I’m sure there are better programs out there but this one does the trick for me.

I use Audacity to analyse any interviews I did and I use Pamela to record Skype calls.

 

And now come the great heroes of my desktop. I am now going to reward you for reading through this post.

One of my most important and most used tools: Clipmate. Anything you Ctrl+C, you can find again in Clipmate. You can also take screenshots of exactly the area you want, no fudging around with Windows screenshot and then manipulating it in paint.

My newest addition and already one of my most important ones: Mendeley. It has three main uses:

1) Organizing a library of any papers you have digitally stored. I download masses of papers as PDF files and they all get weird names when you DL them. For example, I downloaded an article from the journal “Advances in Teacher Education” and got a PDF called “01626620%2E2013%2E846148″. That’s not really helpful if you’re trying to find it on your PC. You could of course rename it to “Author (Year) Paper Name” but let’s be honest, you’re not. With the roughly 600 papers I have on my PC, it’d take me a month just to get through them.

So what do you do? You drag them into Mendeley and hey, presto! all your articles (well, most, some bugs apply) are organized by Author/Year/Paper name/etc. All relevant info is extracted and now you can easily browse them.

2) Finding papers. On the Mendeley website, you’re able to browse citations, take a look at what your colleagues are browsing and so on. Searching for the most popular article in earth science? Click! Searching for most viewed article last month? Click. Really easy.

3) Networking. There are loads of groups, thousands of people are using Mendeley, most of them researchers. Add contacts, add groups, share documents.

Finally, my two smaller programs. I use PDF Architect and PDF Creator in tandem. Both have their down- and upsides. You just need some kind of PDF manipulating program.

Also, I don’t present on PPT any more, I only use Prezi. Interestingly, not many people know about it so they’ll be totally freaked by your rotating presentations. Just make sure you don’t make it too flashy, otherwise content gets lost.

 

So there, those are my programs and extensions. I use a few other programs for my teacher-related work (like HotPotatoes to create worksheets), but those are my main working programs. If you’ve got any other splendid programs/extensions for making life easier, do share them. Also, I’m getting my first smartphone in the summer (yes, I still have a phone that doesn’t have a camera), so I’d also be glad if people shared apps. I know of only two: Macmillan’s phonetic transcription app and dict.cc’s downloadable dictionary. (Satisfactory for classroom work, but not for anything else.)

The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

he_who_is_nobody
he_who_is_nobody
Thu Apr 11, 2013 5:10 pm by he_who_is_nobody

I volunteer at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, which was created in 1986 and is made up of two floors of exhibits. There are several different halls to the museum, some change over time, but the main thrust of the museum is found in eight halls that make up the Walk Through Time. This section of the museum focuses on the geological history of New Mexico from Precambrian to the present. The exhibits in the halls may change, but the overall theme of them stays the same.

In this blog post, I am going to give a general overview of the museum by describing the eight main halls that make up Walk Through Time. I will provide the map of the museum so one will be able to follow along while reading this post. In addition, this post is the beginning of several posts I will be doing about the museum. Some will be about specific halls, while others will be about specific exhibits found in the halls. This post will always be referenced, thus one will know exactly which part of the museum I discuss in the future.

Walk Through Time starts on the second floor and works its way back down to the first floor.

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Hall One: Origins

In this hall, one is given a brief overview of the formation of the earth and how life might have started. It covers the Precambrian and Paleozoic periods of the earth. Walking farther into this hall one is shown fossils of some of the first life forms on earth and modern creatures that resemble that life. This hall also briefly covers the origin of land-based life. At the end of this hall is the beginning of the major theme of this museum, and that is the natural history of New Mexico. There are fossils, displays, and murals that cover what New Mexico was like at the end of the Paleozoic and beginning of the Mesozoic.

Hall Two: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

In this hall, the first thing you see is a wall talking about the largest extinction event in earth’s history. Next to that, they show what the oceans looked like (with fossils and art) in the Paleozoic and compare with what it looked like in the Mesozoic. The beginning of the hall deals with the early Triassic and has displays of living fossils featuring lungfish (including a live specimen) and coelacanth. Phytosaurs and Placerias, which made up the bulk of the land base life forms during the late Triassic, dominate the late Triassic part of the hall. This hall also includes a display of the earliest mammal (Adelobasileus) and talks about how exactly scientists are able to classify mammals using their ear bones. This hall also includes an exhibit on Coelophysis, New Mexico’s state fossil.

10x7qcm.jpg
Hall Three: Age of Super Giants

In this hall, some of the largest dinosaurs to ever live are displayed. This hall is about the Jurassic, which is the period that dinosaurs truly became the dominant animal on the planet. Two of the dinosaurs on display in this hall are Seismosaurus, the longest dinosaur to ever be discovered, and Saurophaganax, the largest carnivorous dinosaur of the Jurassic.

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There is also a display showing the evolution of birds from dinosaurs. It compares the anatomy of Archaeopteryx with that of a pterosaur, a small dinosaur, and one of the first true birds in order to show the homology between the bird/dinosaur and dissimilarity between bird/dinosaur and the pterosaur.

Hall Four: New Mexico’s Seacoast

In this hall, one is able to find a display that shows the movement of the sea that once covered most of New Mexico for all of the Cretaceous period. Because of this sea, the Cretaceous period is one of the most fossiliferous periods in the whole state. When first walking into this hall, one sees into the bottom floor, which has a mosasaur sculpture surrounded by blue floors and walls, representing the sea that covered the state. Next to that is a coastal jungle, which is filled with fossils and sculptures of the creatures that once inhabited the coastal region of the inland sea. One walks down a ramp passed other fossil displays and the coastal jungle. When walking into the first floor one comes into a room entitled “A Bad Day in the Cretaceous”, which shows a film projected on the wall of a meteor striking the earth. Once one leaves this area one walks closer to the mosasaur display.

Hall Five: Volcanoes

In this hall, one is treated to a walk through a generic volcano. New Mexico has more extinct volcanoes than any other state. Inside this hall, it discusses all four different types of volcanoes and the lava they produce. It also shows examples of all four volcanoes with ones found in New Mexico. This hall has been here, virtually unchanged since the museum opened in 1986 and is still one of my favorites along with most of the people that visit.

Hall Six: Rise of the Recent

In this hall, one is able to see a brief overview of much of the Cenozoic of New Mexico. This hall contains some of the most beautiful murals in the whole museum. The best mural in this hall is the mural showing the evolution of the horse. There are a few fossil exhibits found in this hall including Diatryma, which was discovered here in New Mexico by Edward Drinker Cope.

 

Hall Seven: Cave

In this hall, an artificial cave is created to show all the different aspects of caves. There are different displays that light up and tell one about the different formations found in caves. This exhibit also discusses the life forms that one would find in a cave. In addition, a display talks about Carlsbad Caverns, which in my opinion is the most beautiful cave system on earth.

Hall Eight: New Mexico’s Ice Age.

In this hall, there are several different displays of the different animals found in New Mexico during the Pleistocene. This hall includes erected skeletons of a Columbian mammoth, two dire wolves, and a saber-toothed cat. It also has a mural, which depicts how lush New Mexico would have been during the ice age. This is also the only hall that contains depictions of human activities in the Museum, which is a mural of the Clovis People butchering a Columbian Mammoth.

Edited by Dean, 11/04/2013
Reason for edit: Spelling/word-choice alterations, all images but the first reduced in size by 50%.

The Good and The Hatred

Dean
Dean
Thu Dec 15, 2011 11:02 pm by Dean

Just recently I discovered various videos of Dawkins, Hitchens and Dennett on YouTube (surrounding the AAI). They echoed opinions that are similar to mine and are quite harsh in their views on religion. I rediscovered this stance for me just recently again after a long time on hiatus. Now my experience is this: arguments on the ‘crimes’ of religions and their negative views are often met with justifications and relativizations; It is suggested that a position as mine is driven by hatred and intolerance.

There is the old question: How much tolerance for the enemies of tolerance?

Also recently, I found a documentary on the German church-critic Karlheinz Deschner (unfortunately not in English yet). It was titled: “the Hatefilled Eyes of Karlheinz Deschner’. The documentary is some kind of meta-discussion on his body of work which is, alas, not yet available in english, either. He basically wrote for 30 years, alone, on the “Criminal History of Christianity’ in 10 Volumes (!), currently writing the tenth and last one. Hopefull the whole is translated when he is done.

The title “the Hatefilled ‘¦’ is a quote of one of the Christian interviewees, who also appears in regular public TV sometimes. It reflects how some of the other Christian participants think. They are quite obsessed in trying to find a reason for Deschners engagement, trying to pull Ad Hominem Arguments against him. Deschner on the other hand is a rather gentle (very) old man, speaking softly and supports his work with tons of supportive evidence. He will probably not witness how his work is received and it may appear to him that it happens what the other side wants: that his book just collects dust (one of the christian interviewee says so).

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Free GE

Aught3
Aught3
Thu Sep 01, 2011 9:34 am by Aught3

Forgive the indulgence, I read a rather infuriating story in the newspaper and I felt like a rant.

A recent story in the Dominion Post (Commercial benefits lacking in GE trials) reveals the genetic engineering trials being carried out by Crown Research institutions have lead to very few commercial gains. Plant and Food and AgResearch have paid over half a million dollars in application fees to ERMA and only one of the trials has resulted in royalty generating IP. To those familiar with New Zealand’s restrictive requirements for GE research, this outcome is hardly a surprise.

Despite decades of safe use around the world, GE and GMOs remain contentious issues in New Zealand. The regulatory environment alone makes it difficult to carry out even basic research, let alone the commercial research which scientists are now being criticised for not producing. Anti-GE spokeswoman Claire Bleakley decries that the benefit of GE research being completed in New Zealand is lost to the overseas companies. But if private companies are the only ones paying for the research to be carried out then it makes sense they are the ones who reap the economic benefit. Basic funding for GE research is simply not available in New Zealand, the funding bodies know there is little chance any innovation made will be allowed to be used.

If New Zealand wants its scientific organisations to produce applied science using GE technology then it must:
1) relax the regulatory environment so that research time and money is not being consumed navigating expensive legislation
2) fund GE projects so the IP is not captured by overseas companies
3) open the New Zealand market to GMOs so that the benefits of this technology can be accrued here

There is very little risk and huge benefits to allowing GE research to be conducted more freely. The longer New Zealand clings to the anti-GE label, the more we miss out on the exciting commercial opportunities. Rather than be GE-free, let’s free GE!

Cross-posted from IndoctrinatingFreethought.blogspot.com

Science vs religion: the effect of education

Aught3
Aught3
Wed Jun 01, 2011 9:02 am by Aught3

A new sociological study of UCLA undergraduate students has been getting some play in the sceptical blogosphere. Since it relates to some previous blog posts I have written on the LoR I thought I would go through it. Basically, a UCLA organisation called the Spirituality in Higher Education Project (SHEP)1 surveyed the religious opinions of the first-year population on campus. They then followed up with another survey of juniors to identify opinions influenced by several years of higher eduction. The study in question (Scheitle, 2011) focuses on the students’ perception of the relationship between religion and science.

Students could choose between four options to describe their view on this relationship.

  1. Conflict – I consider myself on the side of religion
  2. Conflict – I consider myself on the side of science
  3. Independence – they refer to different aspects of reality
  4. Collaboration – each can be used to help support the other

Categories three and four were lumped together into a ‘non-conflict’ answer.

Of this sample 83% of the students were religious. Unsurprisingly then, this means that 86% of the respondents went with non-conflict (69%) or sided with religion (17%). That leaves 17% non-religious students, 14% of whom sided exclusively with science. Given the large proportion of Christians in the US and that most are not of the fundamental variety, meaning they will have their science and eat it too, this seems a fairly straight-forward result.

Interestingly by their junior year, 73% of those who had originally sided with religion had come to adopt a non-conflict or pro-science position. This shift perhaps reflects the secularising effect of education. However, 47% of those who had originally picked science had also shifted their position. Not as large of a percentage of those who changed from a pro-religion stand-point but a substantial proportion of students. Even when the researcher looked into the data for only science students, the moderating effect of education was still present. Apparently, learning more about science decreased the view that science and religion were in conflict.

What I would have liked to be able to look at is the detailed data for both the independence and collaboration viewpoints instead of having them lumped together in a single category. If it’s correct that more education promotes a more secular viewpoint I would expect to see the ‘independence’ category increase. Whereas if education was actually supporting religion, I would expect to see a growth in the number of students picking ‘collaboration’. With the data in their current form, it’s impossible to make such judgements.

 

  1. SHEP is funded by the Templeton foundation; any true sceptics will now hum the Jaws theme.

Scheitle, C. P. (2011) U.S. College Students’ Perception of Religion and Science: Conflict, Collaboration, or Independence? A Research Note. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 50(1), 175-186.

NASA Reveals Discovery of Arsenic-Using Life

AndroidAR
AndroidAR
Thu Dec 02, 2010 9:47 pm by AndroidAR

NASA has announced the discovery of microbes that can replace phosphorus with arsenic, which is toxic to all other known life forms. It can substitute arsenic for phosphorus in the (normally phosphoric) backbone of its DNA and RNA, in its cell membrane, and even in its ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is a central energy-carrying molecule in all cells.

NASA’s release: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2010/dec/HQ_10-320_Toxic_Life.html

So, how do you think this will affect the search for life elsewhere? It might not be life on Titan (as some speculated the news release might be about), but it’s still pretty cool.

Forum topic for convenience: http://forums.leagueofreason.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=6453

Could you patent the sun?

Aught3
Aught3
Fri May 28, 2010 7:47 am by Aught3

One of the biggest enemies facing critical thinking and scepticism is that of personal bias. Bias is extremely easy to spot in other people, but notoriously difficult to spot in yourself. No one likes to think that they may be biased but everyone is, in one way or another. Bias often appears in science denialism where someone may be religiously biased towards a Biblical interpretation of the fossil evidence (for example) rather than towards the scientific explanation. The best we can do about our biases is recognise them and be extra vigilant when we come across evidence that conforms to our biased pre-judgements. Because bias has such an affect on our interpretation of evidence, scientists especially should try to limit the influence of such outside factors on their impartial research. Yet we see precisely the opposite occurring. As research and industry snuggle into a cosy relationship, scientists have become enamoured with their commercial partners.

The commercialisation of research has exploded in the fields of biomedical science and biotechnology, with industry poised to make millions, scientists are all too happy to take a cut of the action. However, money is a powerful motivator and researchers now have an added incentive to find certain result. The result which favours whatever corporation provides the funding. If scientists are being influenced by their source of funding, then it should be apparent in their results. Industry funded projects should find positive results more often than non-profit funding. Indeed, taking the example of pharmaceutical research, that is what we find.

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