Category Evolution

Evolution and Agency

I was worried recently when I read the phrase “goal-directed evolution” in some philosophy writing. This annoys me since it shows what I consider to be a fundamental misunderstanding of what evolution is and does, and philosophers should know better.

Scaramanga takes on Accelerated Christian Education. And wins.

Jonny Scaramanga came to do a talk about his experiences with Christian education at Portsmouth Skeptics in the Pub recently. I was gutted to have missed it – I was really looking forward to that one. However, keeping a tab on his blog, it seems clear that he is embroiled in a right ding-dong with his arch nemeses, Accelerate Christian Education, or ACE. Here is his article ion the subject which he wrote for the Guardian.

Thoughts on the Nye/Ham Creationism/Evolution Debate

The end is Nye!

Sorry, made that joke last time, but now it seems better suited.

So last night was the much-trafficked debate between Bill Nye, the Science Guy, and AiG founder Ken Ham. Now, I am obviously biased towards the scientific consensus; evidence tends to do that. However, I have to say that I was pessimistic about how the debate would go. I didn’t figure either side would really win, but rather it seemed there would be a lot of talking past each other. And while that happened to an extend, overall I think Nye handled things rather well.

Nye vs Ham – who won?

Well, without having yet finished, it seems open and closed. Don’t get me wrong, both were assured and neither will shift the other’s position, obviously. But you simply can’t argue against such robust and predictive science.

“There is no association between evolution, science, academics, or the intellect. It does not exist.”

OK, it might take you a while to stop laughing. Now, these days, I don’t really get involved in evolution arguments with people who flatly deny evolution on such blatantly anti-intellectual terms. I see it as self-delusion, and having written before that such people are impervious to reason and evidence, and that showing such actually entrenches their views, I try not to be bothered by such positions. But often fail.

Discovery of New Tiktaalik Roseae Fossils Reveals Key Link in Evolution of Hind Limbs

The discovery of well-preserved pelves and a partial pelvic fin from Tiktaalik roseae, a 375 million-year-old transitional species between fish and the first legged animals, reveals that the evolution of hind legs actually began as enhanced hind fins. This challenges existing theory that large, mobile hind appendages were developed only after vertebrates transitioned to land. The fossils are described by scientists in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, online on Jan. 13.

The Moral Life of Babies

Morality is not just something that people learn, argues Yale psychologist Paul Bloom: It is something we are all born with. At birth, babies are endowed with compassion, with empathy, with the beginnings of a sense of fairness. It is from these beginnings, he argues in his new book Just Babies, that adults develop their sense of right and wrong, their desire to do good — and, at times, their capacity to do terrible things. Bloom answered questions recently from Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook.

Oldest Hominin DNA Sequenced: Mitochondrial Genome of a 400,000-Year-Old Hominin from Spain Decoded

Using novel techniques to extract and study ancient DNA researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have determined an almost complete mitochondrial genome sequence of a 400,000-year-old representative of the genus Homo from Sima de los Huesos, a unique cave site in Northern Spain, and found that it is related to the mitochondrial genome of Denisovans, extinct relatives of Neandertals in Asia. DNA this old has until recently been retrieved only from the permafrost.

Texas textbook review panel: Put more ‘creation science based on Biblical principles’ in biology books

Religious conservatives on the Texas state textbook review panel have targeted for elimination high school biology textbooks that don’t include robust refutations of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.

The panel, which includes several creationists, is urging the State Board of Education to reject any textbook that does not issue what it calls “disclaimers” on key concepts in evolutionary theory.

How ‘Junk DNA’ Can Control Cell Development (one for the Creationists)

Having just had a small discussion on an Amazon book review concerning evolution, and with the science denier proposing as one of his 3 main arguments against evolution being ‘junk DNA’, I thought this article would be interesting; a recent paper described by Science Daily:

Aug. 2, 2013 — Researchers from the Gene and Stem Cell Therapy Program at Sydney’s Centenary Institute have confirmed that, far from being “junk,” the 97 per cent of human DNA that does not encode instructions for making proteins can play a significant role in controlling cell development.

Lizards Show Evolution Is Predictable

Science Daily – July 19, 2013 — If you could hit the reset button on evolution and start over, would essentially the same species appear? Yes, according to a study of Caribbean lizards by researchers at the University of California, Davis, Harvard University and the University of Massachusetts. The work is published July 19 in the journal Science.

Seeing Sea Stars: The Missing Link in Eye Evolution?

July 5, 2013 — A study has shown for the first time that starfish use primitive eyes at the tip of their arms to visually navigate their environment. Research headed by Dr. Anders Garm at the Marine Biological Section of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, showed that starfish eyes are image-forming and could be an essential stage in eye evolution.

Evolution as part of a necessary mechanism (and putting Creationism to bed)

This is one of my old posts from when I wrote more often at DC:

We have had a resurgence in discussing evolution recently, thanks in no small part to the Creationist mental contortions of Creationbabble over on this thread. what this seems to show, to me at any rate, is that Creationists, and any shade of person who disbelieves the theory of evolution, simply does not understand the philosophy behind it.