Saturday, 22 November 2014

All Scientists Have Unconscious Biases, Microbiologist Says

Sir Isaac Newton's portrait by Godfrey Kneller (1702). Image courtesy of Wikipedia.



Joel Kontinen

A recent article in the journal Nature on the merits of scientific fame included an interesting admission:

All scientists have unconscious biases,” Laura Piddock, a microbiologist at the University of Birmingham, UK, said.

Some people tend to think that wearing a white lab coat makes one sort of unbiased and infallible. This, of course, is by no means true. Scientists are real human beings with real hopes, aspirations and beliefs.

And biases.

Unfortunately, some scientists believe that nature is all that there is – that the supernatural sphere does not exist. For them science is not a search for the best explanation but it is a search for the best naturalistic explanation.

In contrast, the great pioneers of science, such as Sir Isaac Newton, were not biased in that way.

Science can be misused and elevated to the status of a religion.

Scientism is something that C. S. Lewis warned us about.

Source:

Woolston, Chris. 2014. Being a big name in science brings benefits. Nature (12 November).




Thursday, 20 November 2014

Fixity of Species Is a Darwinian Myth

Exposing a Darwinian fable. A zonkey or zedonk at Colchester Zoo in 2004. Image courtesy of Wikipedia (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license).




Joel Kontinen


Anti-creationists like Bill Nye often assume that a belief in creation amounts to the fixity of species. Some time ago, synthetic biologist Drew Endy suggested:

With Darwin and the theory of evolution came a sea change in perspective. We moved from an idea of the natural world as something that doesn't change to something that does.”

There are very few, if any, creationists who believe in the fixity of species. What they believe is that living things change according to their kinds. For instance, cats change, but they will never evolve to become dogs.

The biblical concept kind does not correspond to the biological term species but is a wider concept.

Accordingly, while evolutionists were surprised to see a zonkey or a cross between a zebra and a donkey, this hybrid was to be expected in the Genesis-based model. The same applies to a liger (lion + tiger), a geep (goat + sheep) and a cross between a grizzly and a polar bear.

The change we see in these hybrids is not of the Darwinian variety. No new genetic information is added.

Source:


Heaven, Douglas. 2013. Meet the man writing a language to program life. New Scientist 2932, 28-29.



Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Humans Are a Privileged Species, New Documentary Suggests



A new documentary shows that humans are no accidents.





Joel Kontinen

Recently, sceptics like Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson stressed the importance of acknowledging that we are basically nothing more than insignificant accidents that evolution never really had in mind.

In contrast, a new documentary featuring geneticist, Dr. Michael Denton, comes to a very different conclusion.

Produced by Discovery Institute, Privileged Speciesexplores growing evidence from physics, chemistry, biology, and related fields that our universe was designed for large multi-cellular beings like ourselves.”

The 33-minute document “investigates the special properties of carbon, water, and oxygen that make human life and the life of other organisms possible, and it explores some of the unique features of humans that make us a truly privileged species.”

Source:

Privileged species.com


Sunday, 16 November 2014

These Tusks Are Not for Killing: Sabre-Toothed Deer Is Still Found in Afghanistan


Moschus moschiferus is a related species. Image courtesy of Николай Усик /http://paradoxusik.livejournal.com.




Joel Kontinen

We usually associate sabre-toothed mammals with the Ice Age. However, a new study published in the journal Oryx suggests that the Kashmir musk deer Moschus cupreus still lives in Afghanistan. They lack antlers but the males grow tusks.

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) researchers conducted a survey of Moschus cupreus’ habitat and concluded:

“This wildlife survey in the eastern forests of Afghanistan after decades of war indicates that the musk deer still persists there despite unregulated hunting, extensive deforestation, habitat degradation, and the absence of rule of law.”

Stephane Ostrowski and colleagues suggest that the Kashmir musk deer is endangered, however.

Tusks do not necessarily indicate ferocity. An ancient sabre-toothed animal found in Brazil preyed on plants.

Most people would associate sharp teeth with killing. However, not all animals with sharp teeth as a weapon. Pandas prey on bamboo and fruit bats drink nectar and eat tropical fruit.


Source:

Ostrowski, Stephane et al. 2014. Musk deer Moschus cupreus persist in the eastern forests of Afghanistan. Oryx, 1–6.




Friday, 14 November 2014

Dogs Are Better Learners Than Chimps


Man’s best fried is a better learner than a chimp.




Joel Kontinen

A recent study compared the skills of human infants and chimpanzees in an attempt to explain why we are much better at learning – and building culture – than chimps.

According to an article in Live Science, Edwin van Leeuwen, a doctoral student at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, and his colleagues “tested 23 German preschoolers and 14 chimpanzees, putting them both through almost identical experiments.”

They put three cups on a table. A reward – either a toy or food – was hidden under one of the cups. The children and the chimps were allowed to watch how the others fared in the test.

It was no surprise that the preschoolers did much better than the chimps. The apes seemed to be unable to learn from others but approached the test in a haphazard way.

”Chimps just aren't as motivated to learn from one another as humans are,” Live Science concludes.

Evolutionists used to believe – and some still do, despite the evidence – that chimps are almost humans.

Dogs are quite clever at finding such treats. Experiments have shown that they only need to take a look at the human experimenter to know where a potential treat is hidden.

This might be a big disappointment for ardent Darwinists, but in the real world dogs (as well as elephants and crows) are cleverer than apes.

While training might to some extent explain why dogs are clever, it is not to easy to say why a wild fox can be astoundingly intelligent and innovative.


Sources:

Hare, Brian, Josep Call and Michael Tomasello. 1998. Communication of Food Location Between Human and Dog (Canis Familiaris). Evolution of Communication 2 (1): 137 –159.

Pappas, Stephanie. 2014. Why Chimps Haven't Evolved Culture Like Humans. Live Science (November 12).






Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Consciousness is a Ghostly Thing In a Naturalistic World

Plants seem to have some kind of intelligence but it might be an exaggeration to say that they are conscious.




Joel Kontinen

Consciousness Is an immaterial phenomenon. For those who embrace a naturalistic /materialistic worldview it seems to be an enigma and they have tried to fill the Internet with explanations of how we can be conscious of anything.

In their evolution-based story, life has to appear from non-life (although we know that it can’t), so consciousness must also be a hard nut to crack.

Recently, Michael Graziano, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Princeton, wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times:

How does the brain go beyond processing information to become subjectively aware of information? The answer is: It doesn’t. The brain has arrived at a conclusion that is not correct.”

However, we are much more than our brains. But Professor Graziano goes on to say:

When we introspect and seem to find that ghostly thing — awareness, consciousness, the way green looks or pain feels — our cognitive machinery is accessing internal models and those models are providing information that is wrong. The machinery is computing an elaborate story about a magical-seeming property. And there is no way for the brain to determine through introspection that the story is wrong, because introspection always accesses the same incorrect information.”

It appears that worldview determines what he thinks about consciousness. It is a “ghostly thing” and our brain is a machine.

Things are a bit more complicated in the real world that is not populated by ghosts. Our brain is a lot more than a cognitive machine: it is a marvel and it is an integral part of us.

We are the ones who are aware.

Source:

Graziano, Michael S. A. 2014. Are We Really Conscious? The New York Times (10 October).


Monday, 10 November 2014

Young Ice on Old Mercury: Dilemma for Long Ages

Mercury’s North Pole. Image courtesy of NASA.





Joel Kontinen

Finding water ice on Mercury, the solar system's innermost planet where temperatures can soar to over 430 degrees Celsius (800 degrees Fahrenheit), might be an enigma for long-agers. How could it possible survive there for millions of years?

Researchers first got to know about ice on Mercury some 20 years ago. In 2012, NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft confirmed that there indeed was ice in “permanently shadowed craters” near the planet’s north pole.

Recently, researchers were able to study photos that MESSENGER sent. The images “suggest that the ice lurking within Mercury's polar craters was delivered recently, and may even be topped up by processes that continue today.”

This, of course, is an attempt to explain why there could be ice on the Sun’s next-door neighbour, a planet assumed to be billions of years old.

A more logical explanation is that Mercury is not that old at all. This view gets support from its weakening magnetic field, for instance.

There is no shortage of evidence for a young solar system. Saturn’s moons Titan, Mimas and Enceladus speak for a younger solar system, as do short-term comets.

Source:

Wall, Mike. 2014. First Photos of Water Ice on Mercury Captured by NASA Spacecraft. Space.com (October 15).