Apr. 4, 2013 — A structural biologist at the Florida State University College of Medicine has made discoveries that could lead scientists a step closer to understanding how life first emerged on Earth billions of years ago.
Today at the White House, President Barak Obama unveiled the “BRAIN” Initiative — a bold new research effort to revolutionize our understanding of the human mind and uncover new ways to treat, prevent, and cure brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury.
So meteorites aren’t the sole culprits. I guess the question is, how do Creationists rationalise this entire gamut of evidence…
In evolutionary biology, there is a deeply rooted supposition that you can’t go home again: Once an organism has evolved specialized traits, it can’t return to the lifestyle of its ancestors.There’s even a name for this pervasive idea. Dollo’s law states that evolution is unidirectional and irreversible. But this “law” is not universally accepted and is the topic of heated debate among biologists.
A scanning electron microscope image of an American house dust mite. (Credit: G. Bauchan and R. Ochoa)
Now a research team led by
Science Daily – Mar. 6, 2013 — University of Georgia researchers discovered important genetic clues about the history of microorganisms called archaea and the origins of life itself in the first ever study of its kind. Results of their study shed light on one of Earth’s oldest life forms.
Science Daily: Mar. 3, 2013 — Researchers at the University of Rochester and the University of Ottawa have applied a recently developed technique to directly measure for the first time the polarization states of light. Their work both overcomes some important challenges of Heisenberg’s famous Uncertainty Principle and also is applicable to qubits, the building blocks of quantum information theory.
Wow. This is mind blowing. Determinists, or near-determinists (such that quantum indeterminism may be true, but that it does not affect the macro level, and certainly not free will issues), will find this Science Daily article particularly interesting. Rats, and even pairs over thousands of miles distance, have had their brains directly linked in communication to solve puzzles. This really does gie the impression that brains are simply very complex biological computers (do you like that oxymoron?).
As ever, divesting the news from Science Daily for your perusal: Feb. 19, 2013 — Understanding how and why diversification occurs…
Science Daily reports:
Feb. 20, 2013 — The base pairs that hold together two pieces of RNA, the older cousin of DNA, are some of the most important molecular interactions in living cells. Many scientists believe that these base pairs were part of life from the very beginning and that RNA was one of the first polymers of life. But there is a problem. The RNA bases don’t form base pairs in water unless they are connected to a polymer backbone, a trait that has baffled origin-of-life scientists for decades. If the bases don’t pair before they are part of polymers, how would the bases have been selected out from the many molecules in the “prebiotic soup” so that RNA polymers could be formed?
As if any was needed.
Science Daily – Feb. 14, 2013 — A genome-wide analysis searching for evidence of long-lived balancing selection — where the evolutionary process acts not to select the single best adaptation but to maintain genetic variation in a population — has uncovered at least six regions of the genome where humans and chimpanzees share the same combination of genetic variants.
I love research like this, it just fascinates me, and adds to the mountains of empirical evidence that supports the logical and philosophical evidence / argumentation which underpins determinism (or, more accurately, the lack of libertarian free will) about which I wrote my first book – Free Will? An investigation into whether we have free will or whether I was always going to write this book. Which, you will glad to know, has some cracking reviews.
Jerry Coyne, on his excellent blog, has detailed his opinions, whilst recounting critiques of other thinkers, on atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel’s controversial anti-evolution book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. Well, the title is enough to make one sigh. I am including here a review / critique by one of Jerry Coyne’s first students, Allen Orr, for your delectation. This appeared in The New York Review of Books. I suggest heading over to Coyne’s piece for more detail.
Brain cells that fire only when monkeys act unselfishly may provide clues to the neural basis of altruism, according to a new study. In the study, the cells fire in rhesus monkeys when they gave juice away, but not when they received it. The findings, published Dec. 23 in the journal Nature Neuroscience, may shed light on why many animals (including humans) exhibit kind, unselfish behavior that doesn’t directly benefit them.
Dec. 20, 2012 — A coherent pathway — which starts from no more than rocks, water and carbon dioxide and leads to the emergence of the strange bio-energetic properties of living cells — has been traced for the first time in a major hypothesis paper in Cellthis week.
At the origin of life the first protocells must have needed a vast amount of energy to drive their metabolism and replication, as enzymes that catalyse very specific reactions were yet to evolve. Most energy flux must have simply dissipated without use.
Recently, I ran a couple of posts sharing some of the utterly awesome work of Canadian science rapper Baba Brinkman. He is a fascinating guy who has kindly agreed to an interview which I am sharing with you here. Before I get down to the interview, let me remind you of his truly great work:
Rebecca Watson, a speaker at skeptical conference and events, and someone who has courted controversy before (I think she was involved in the Elevatorgate issue, though I know almost nothing about it since it holds little interest to me)., has taken it upon herself at the recent Skepticon conference to diss Evolutionary Psychology (EP). I use the term diss, because that’s about the sum of it. There seemed to be no real desire to interact with the required academia or methodology involved in critiquing scientific findings. This is sad coming from the source and the event that it did.
The question of how life began on a molecular level has been a longstanding problem in science. However, recent mathematical research sheds light on a possible mechanism by which life may have gotten a foothold in the chemical soup that existed on the early Earth.
Researchers have proposed several competing theories for how life on Earth could have gotten its start, even before the first genes or living cells came to be. Despite differences between various proposed scenarios, one theme they all have in common is a network of molecules that have the ability to work together to jumpstart and speed up their own replication — two necessary ingredients for life. However, many researchers find it hard to imagine how such a molecular network could have formed spontaneously — with no precursors — from the chemical environment of early Earth.
This excellent letter by Isaac Asimov was brought to my attention by Andy Schueler in this thread. Enjoy, it’s a…
An interesting article from the BBC looking at damage done to the suupersymmetry theory in particle physics. Popular physics…
Growing up in heathen headquarters (aka central Europe), I never met anyone in meatspace who thinks that a fertilized human egg is a “fully human person”. I’ve met many Catholics in my life so far, but none of them would agree with the notion of a zygote having full personhood (disagreeing with the majority of official Church doctrines is quite common for Catholics in first world countries). Since this view is virtually non-existent where I live, I never had to debate it with anyone and, to be honest, I never really thought about this issue until recently. The first time I participated in a discussion on this issue was on JW Wartick´s blog (Jonathan already mentioned the discussion that ensued on his blog in this post). While Jonathan was mostly raising philosophical issues in this discussion, I was focused on whether the personhood-starts-at-conception position is defensible based on a 21st century understanding of Biology, especially Embryology. I think that this position is necessarily incoherent, and I want to summarize my argument for that here.