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This Is Disturbing – Comic Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Posted by h3nry in anti-evolution, comic, creationism, Darwin, Darwinism, evolution, fundamentalism, God, violence.
8 comments

I found this comic, courtesy of Digg. I don’t know about you, but I found it really disturbing… perhaps the artist is trying to reflect the anti-evolution sentiment rampant amongst the religous fundamentalists? By why such violence, why the use of girls?

I have a suspicion that the caption was added later by someone which has nothing to do with the drawing. I’d like to think that the drawing comes from some innocent children’s book…

“Trapping the Evolutionist”

Click here for the original file. Click on it to see its full size.

The Peppered Moths Stike Back Monday, August 27, 2007

Posted by h3nry in evolution, Icons of Evolution, intelligent design, Jonathan Wells, Judith Hooper, Majerus, natural selection, pepper moth, science, science experiment.
4 comments

If you ask anyone off the street to give you one example of evolution, chances are it will be the peppered moth phenomenon. The story of the darker type of moths out-surviving the lighter coloured moths in industrial polluted areas has been cited in just about all evolution and biology textbooks.

However, this icon of evolution has been under heavy attack recently, raging from flawed experiments to outright fraud or fakery. The charges include manipulated photographs, deliberate suppressed evidence and dismissing other alternative conclusions out of hand. The critics include the Intelligent Design proponent Jonathan Wells in his infamous book Icons of Evolution and Judith Hooper’s Of Moths and Men.

This attack has completely repelled, and vindicated by a recently experiment conducted. A Cambridge professor named Michael Majerus has repeated this experiment in his own backyard for a span of seven years – taking into the criticism into account as well. His study has conclusively shown that the phenomenon is indeed a shining example of natural selection:

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Darwinism and Its Discontents – Book Review Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Posted by h3nry in anti-creationism, anti-fundamentalism, anti-ID, Behe, biology, book review, Charles Darwin, Christianity, consilience, creationism, Darwin, Darwinism, Dawkins, evolution, genetics, geology, God, Gould, Haeckel, human evolution, philosophy, Piltdown Man, punctuated equilibrium, rationality, reason, religion, science, scientific theory.
2 comments

I have been thinking about the ideas in this book for about four decades and have decided that the time has come to put them all together.

This is the opening sentence of Professor Michael Ruse’s latest book Darwinism and Its Discontents. Ruse is a well-known evolutionary philosopher and has been a great defender on Darwinism for a number of years. And with an opening statement like that, naturally I was thrilled to read what the discontents are all about, and if they matter at all.

The book is a defender of Darwinism and the fact of evolution from all sides of attacks, and is understandably light on refuting creationism of various flavours, so read this book to cement your understanding of Darwinism and evolution – I certainly learned a good deal from it.

Darwinism is defined as a particular theory in which evolution works. Its heart lies in the concept of natural selection, the chief causal process behind all organisms, and is the widely accepted evolutionary mechanism by the scientific community. However, it has always been under attack from various disciplines in social science, philosophy, religion, and even within science itself, and Ruse writes how these attacks are categorically mistaken.

Darwinism and Its Discontents Cover

The first chapter goes through the historical background of Darwinism. Ruse includes a number of notable historical figures ranging from people who did not have direct contribution to Darwinism such as Lyells and Malthus, to modern day scientists such as Fisher, Haldine and Wright. The conclusion of the chapter is right on spot – why was Darwin important? Because it was after him that a revolution happened – that life is a naturalistic, not a supernatural or God-inspired one.

The next few chapters are, I think, the highlights of the book as they outline what the fact of evolution is, its path, its cause and its limitations. Ruse presented the concept of consilience argument – that is, direct evidence supporting evolution from a myriad of fields of studies: palaeontology, biogeographical distribution, classification, morphology, embryology and so on. These chapters are essential in understanding the science of Darwinian theory of evolution – population genetics, adaptation, physical constraints on the phenotype, drift, and of course, natural selection, as well as a dash of Gould’s famous punctuated equilibrium theory.

The second half of the book then takes a different turn. It examines humans, the mistakes and dishonesty made in the history of evolutionary science (such as the Piltdown Man and Haeckel’s drawings) – and finally, Ruse looks at Darwinism from philosophical and religious point of views.

Overall I thought this book is very well balanced and not too technical for the layman; however it is definitely not an introductory level kind of book. If you are looking for the whole creationism vs. evolution debate then this is not an ideal book; conversely if you are looking for a book that covers a wide areas of Darwinian evolution – from past to present and across various disciplines, then this book is it.

Truly Sad – WordPress Censored in Turkey – Creationist Harun Yahya Involved Monday, August 20, 2007

Posted by h3nry in Adnan Oktar, anti-creationism, anti-evolution, anti-fundamentalism, Atlas of Creation, censorship, Edip Yuksel, education, Europe, European Union, evolution, faith, fundamentalism, Harun Yahya, Islam, rationality, reason, religion, science, Turkey, United States, WordPress.
7 comments

Correction:

I was under the impression that Turkey was a member of EU, which is incorrect. Thanks for the reader who kindly pointed out my mistake.

h3nry – 21 August 2007

This is official: my dear blog host WordPress has been blocked in Turkey due to the so-called “defamation blogs” containing alleged “slanders” made to the Turkish Islamic fundamentalist, and the newest and hottest creationist kid in town, Adnan Oktar – or better known by his pen name, Harun Yahya.

Harun Yahya has recently published a fantastically crafted creationist book called Atlas of Creation that has been translated into many language and been shipped, unsolicited, to the schools and universities in various parts of Europe and the United States (which I briefly blogged here). It is not clear how Harun Yahya financed this book and its junk distribution, but the content of it often violates copyright laws.

Now on to the ban of WordPress in Turkey. It seems that the issue is that a person by the name of Edip Yuksel, a self-proclaimed Islamic reformer, has registered various subdomains of WordPress such as:

http://AdnanOktar.wordpress.com

http://HarunYahyaArabic.wordpress.com

and various other domains to, in the words of Harun Yahya’s legal team, “defame” the Islamic fundamentalist. Be sure to check out the site http://AdnanOktar.wordpress.com to see, I think, photos of what seems to be Harun Yahya in prison and being arrested by police.

Here is the extract of a letter sent to WordPress by Harun Yahya’s lawyer (italics mine):

The number of our attempts to inform and warn you regarding these defamation blogs must have been at least twenty, many times through your support page, a couple of times to your legal department and we even sent a regular mail to Mr. Matt Mullenweg (from the WordPress team). Most of our attempts were unanswered.

These defamation blogs contained slanders to some of my client’s friends as well. They also applied WordPress.com support with their official ID cards and a representative directed them to write to the legal department. So they did but again no response from legal.

So it seems this has been an on-going issue. How did WordPress respond to the letters, it is not known. Needless to say this is quite a tricky and complicated issue. The root cause is fundamentalism vs. reformation, there is the policy and responses from WordPress, and there is the unreasonable law of banning the entire blogging service in the entire country. I would have thought that one reasonable approach is to ban those subdomains in dispute get banned – if they are indeed found to be defamatory and that WordPress is judged not have been carried out its legal responsibilities (I cannot say for certain since most of the content are in Turkish and really, I guess it would be somewhat subjective and I am no expert in this fuzzy legal area). It is worth noting the comment made by a reader edezu from Turkey (italics mine):

This person’s (Harun Yahya) current strategy is to block all the sites which attacks him and his ideas. A few months ago, he made a similar move and blocked “eksi sozluk”, an open dictionary which is, in my opinion, a bastion of free speech in turkish online media, with more than 10.000 writers and about 2.000 entries each day.

Adnan Oktar is taking advantage of the gaps in Turkish laws on the internet, which are sadly on their infancy, to silence all the voices against him. Internet poses a real threat to people like him, where ideas are exposed, and people read them!

Yes, one big gap in the Turkish law indeed. My sympathy goes out to the WordPress gang and the Turkish Internet users. I wonder if the European Union will somehow act or put pressure on this Turkish ruling? What’s the lunatic Harun Yahya going to do next – ban Google?

To all of the people out there who feel that this whole entire evolution vs. creationism debate is something of a fringe interest, or an issue that can be safely dismissed – think carefully again. It is an issue that reflects the bigger war between the fundamentalists and the reasonable, the religious fanatics and the rational, lunacy and integrity.

It is good to know though, as one of the readers jimcolella noted, there is already a petition underway:

On that score, I’ve found there is already a Facebook petition to protest the blockage (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=4940847710) and I would strongly recommend all interested parties to write to Al Jazeera’s “Listening Post” programme via their Web site — a great TV prog that covers precisely these types of issues, i.e., freedom of speech… precisely what I’m going to do as soon as I log out of this.

An entire blog publishing service is being censored in an European Union country, the entire freedom to information for the Turkish population is being compromised by a few deranged individuals. This is a truly sad day.

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Inorganic Particles In Plasma Displays Life-Like Properties Sunday, August 19, 2007

Posted by h3nry in biology, DNA, evolution, origin of life, physics, plasma, protein, science, science experiment.
3 comments

Here is another scientific research report published recently at ScienceDaily, this time regarding a discovery made by physicists that inorganic material shows life-like qualities:

Now, an international team has discovered that under the right conditions, particles of inorganic dust can become organised into helical structures. These structures can then interact with each other in ways that are usually associated with organic compounds and life itself.

In essence, the environment is the fourth state of matter – plasma – where electrons are no longer bounded to atoms. The particles in the plasma sate exhibit the ability of self-organisation to form helical structures, where they attract, divide and bifurcate to form two copies of themselves, interact with other particles – and even evolve into stable structures:

Quite bizarrely, not only do these helical strands interact in a counterintuitive way in which like can attract like, but they also undergo changes that are normally associated with biological molecules, such as DNA and proteins, say the researchers. They can, for instance, divide, or bifurcate, to form two copies of the original structure. These new structures can also interact to induce changes in their neighbours and they can even evolve into yet more structures as less stable ones break down, leaving behind only the fittest structures in the plasma.

I was very excited to read this report – imagine the possibilities this discovery opens up! As the article points out, it could even more conceivable now that non-carbon forms of life exist somewhere out there in the universe. As a matter of fact, Imagine a universe where “life” and perhaps even “intelligence” exist in the state of plasma… this is frankly quite freaky and exciting at the same time.

There is one major issue with the report though. It is not clear to me if this discovery is yet another computer simulation or an actual experimentation (emphasis mine):

However, Tsytovich and his colleagues demonstrated, using a computer model of molecular dynamics, that particles in a plasma can undergo self-organization as electronic charges become separated and the plasma becomes polarized..

Anyone has any ideas? I am leaning to interpret it as a computer model was used for the experiment. I will keep an eye out for it, because this is quite a remarkable discovery.

Human Protein Evolution Retraced – at Atomic Level…! Saturday, August 18, 2007

Posted by h3nry in adaptation, Darwinism, evolution, human evolution, mutation, protein, science.
3 comments

I think this is breaking-news stuff. Apparently for the very first time, scientists are able to track very precisely and at an “unprecedented detail” – in fact at atomic level to be exact – of the evolutionary path of an important human protein.

Here is the summary: using state-of-art computational and molecular technology, the ancestor of an important human protein was recreated in labs. These are then subjected to high tech particle physics analysis where the atomic structures of the protein through the past 450 millions of years were revealed.

Says one of the scientists involved:

“This is the ultimate level of detail,” Thornton said. “We were able to see exactly how evolution tinkered with the ancient structure to produce a new function that is crucial to our own bodies today. Nobody’s ever done that before.”

Specifically, only 7 mutations are required for the protein to evolve to its current structure, and the mutations are dependent on each other. As a scientist remarked, much to the dismay of anti-Darwinians,

“This study has refined our knowledge of evolution because it helps address the question of whether adaptation occurs through large or small effect mutations,” said Padilla. “This study shows that small changes may enable large adaptations to occur. These large adaptations may then by further refined by smaller adaptations.”

It is a short and not an overly technical article which is worth a read.

Awesome, Awesome Evolution Software Friday, August 17, 2007

Posted by h3nry in animation, art, artificial intelligence, evolution, Jeffrey Ventrella, natural selection, simulation, software.
1 comment so far

This man – Jeffrey Ventrella – is quite incredible. Here on his website you can find a myriad of beautifully designed evolution simulation software:

http://www.jjventrella.com/

Please go to website and I am sure you will be impressed with Ventrella’s artistic talent and programming skills. Exploring the website is like discovering treasures upon treasures in a dream world. There are not just one but many evolution themed software, as well as fractals and other beautiful artwork. I know, you might say that there are many other evolution simulation software programs out there – true, but Ventrella’s are different in that they are aesthetically awesome.

Ventrella is both a famous and somewhat elusive figure. His is an artist as well as a researcher in artificial intelligence as well as an Internet entrepreneur. He is a co-founder of the online virtual world There and several other ones.

Here is a screenshot (click to enlarge) of one of the Java applet named Music Gene Pool which demonstrates the power of selection in creating music from randomness to your own liking:

EvoMusic

Here is the screenshot of a Windows program called Gene Pool:

Gene Pool is an artificial life simulation in which populations of physics-based organisms evolve swimming capabilities over time. These organisms are called “swimbots”. You can set mate preference criteria and thus influence what the swimbots consider as attractive qualities in potential mates. The most attractive swimbots get chosen most often and so their genetic building blocks propogate to future generations. Eventually, swimbots get better at pursuing each other, competing for food, and becoming babes to other swimbots. Local gene pools emerge which compete for sex and food (for energy to have more sex). Eventually a dominant sub-population takes over.

Gene Pool

I am nuts about evolution and as a software engineer, I can tell you I really admire and envy the works of this man. I wrote a small Java applet a few years ago simulating Conway’s Game of Life, and it is infantile and woeful comparing to Ventrella’s works (which I will be playing with for the next few days whenever time permits…)

“The Limits of Atheism”? Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Posted by h3nry in anti-evolution, atheism, Behe, creationism, evolution, faith, fundamentalism, God, Michael Behe, rationality, reason, religion, science.
3 comments

Sometimes I wonder where the journalistic standards have been these days. Here is an appalling article written by a columnist named David Warren, titled “The Limits of Atheism”. Firstly it addresses nothing on the limits of atheism, instead it is all mumbo-jumbo on evolution; secondly it is full of the straw-man and manipulative arguments coming from the religious bigotry frame of mind.

Let’s start with the second paragraph. Warren simply asserts that most of the proponents of “evolutionism” know little science and cannot engage in details scientific discussions:

For most of these correspondents know precious little science, and haven’t the stamina to engage in detailed argument. They are simply shocked and appalled that anyone would dream of challenging what they believe to be the consensus of “qualified experts,” whom they assume are a closed camp of hard-bitten materialists, with no time for religious or poetical flights.

How outrageous!

It is the creationists of any creationism flavours who exhibit the undesirable trait of ignorance in evolution (and science in general) – we see this time and time again in the never-ending debates against creationists. We are all familiar with how they argue, which involves techniques such as quote mining, mis-understanding science, trumpeting scientists’ mistakes, using out-of-date data, using any areas of uncertainty as proof etc, you name it.

It is precisely the lack of “stamina” to engage in scientific arguments that make creationists of all favours so foolish and wrong. For example,  Michael Behe – one of the very few quotable reputable creationist-scientist today – has had one of his central argument refuted completely here by a grad student.

What on earth does Warren mean by putting quotes around “qualified experts”?

They (evolution proponents) imagine themselves to have an impersonal interest in defending science against “religious superstition,” and the dangers to society that the latter might present. They in fact have strong and uncompromising religious beliefs of their own, which they are loath to have questioned.

Yes of course! We stand to defend human knowledge and the scientific method as well as rationality from religious ignorance and fundamentalist thinking and manipulation.

I often wonder why the religious fundamentalists think evolutionists are arrogant, in that we have “uncompromising religious beliefs” of our own – when the complete opposite is true! Nothing, even in the face of undeniable evidence, will change the creationist’s mind, where as the proponents of evolution and science are the opposite – by definition. Now who is “uncompromising”?

In the concluding paragraphs Warren writes about a recent scientific finding showing that DNA could not have survived comets crashing into earth, because he attempts to show that yet another possible naturalistic explanation of origin of life is been shown not possible. He again shows his lack of understanding in evolution by using the argument of chance. This time this chance argument is done with a twist. Warren thinks that the materialistic evolutionists have resorted to the “multiple universes” hypothesis in order to let chance to explain the origin of life. What idiotic and criminal claim!

“What Is The Danger of Teaching Creationism?” Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Posted by h3nry in anti-creationism, anti-evolution, anti-ID, creationism, education, evolution, God, intelligent design, science.
16 comments

This is a question asked by a fellow blogger Steve at Bits of Brain. Specifically, he would like to know what the impacts and consequences are for teaching creationism alongside of evolution in our schools:

So I remain curious as to what you see are the impacts, the consequences, the ramifications. What will HAPPEN to our children if one day our courts fail us and permit this craziness to enter the classrooms?

Naturally I was appalled by this question and so I left a couple of comments to his post, which I thought I will promote and repeat them up to a post here.

First of all here is the background. Brian at his nice blog Laelaps posted an entry titled “Combating Creationism with History“. Steve then replied with lots of questions, basically sympathesizing with the creationists and questioning why creationism must be fought against. Brian has done a lengthy reply which is worth a read, while I took a different angle in saying that it is important to combat the religious ideology because creationism and its various flavours have been a pest and great waste of resource to our educational systems.

Why is creationism dangerous? As Steve states:

… What is the danger?” What is the “threat” that creationism presents to our society, to our culture, and to our school-children?

Well, in a nutshell it is the same as teaching astrology, numerology or alchemy in our classes.

Education is established as a system to impart knowledge, values and attitudes to the children, while allowing them to learn and develop critical skills and habits.

There are several critical skills that our educational system teaches which arms the kids to become self sufficient and get more out of life. These skills include sports, using computer and learning foreign languages to other more abstract basic skill set such as critical thinking, problem solving and respecting others.

Creationism teaches none of the above – at its core it says an intelligent-designer-did-it and nothing more. Evolution, on the other hand, is a product of scientific disciplines, which is based upon several fundamental skills such problem solving and critical thinking. Now let us look at it n terms of bodies of knowledge, which for example include philosophy, arts, literature and history. Again, how does creationism fit in? What sort of knowledge does it provide?

The best category where creationism can fit in is science. But the problem is that it is not science and does not value any of the scientific fundamentals. It has nothing scientific. Granted, there are areas of uncertainty in it but this is quite normal in all scientific disciplines – just think about the fascinating unsolved mysteries in astrophysics and quantum physics. The ever-dwindling sets of unsolved problems and yet-to-be-explained phenomena are best left for science to deal with, not a religious doctrine that says god-did-it.

So we have established that creationism has absolutely no values. Therefore, the impact of teaching it in our classes is a great waste of resources. The ramification of teaching it is to dumb down or kids, and a direct insult to our educational systems.

The Monthly Dembski Watch – July 2007 Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Posted by h3nry in anti-creationism, anti-evolution, anti-fundamentalism, Behe, creationism, Dembski, evolution, fundamentalism, intelligent design, materialism, MIT, rationality, religion, Richard Dawkins, science, Uncommon Descent.
3 comments

This is a summary of Bill Dembski’s July posts at Uncommon Descent. I started this last month when I was utterly appalled by Dembski’s classless act of making fun of Coyne’s physical appearance. Since then I have been interested in what Dembski writes, and this post is a result of it. I am particularly curious in what kind of positive contribution Dembski (and ID in general) can provide. Note that it is not the purpose of this post to provide anything substantial; it is merely a summary with some element of sarcasm (with people like him – why not?).

So these are what Bill has written in July 2007 (in reversing chronological order):

27th of July – SCIENCE’S BLIND SPOT by Cornelius Hunter

This is a short post from Bill recommending an anti-science book to his audience.

26th of July – A Scoville Scale for Dangerous Questions

This is a good one from Dembski – he is using the scale that measures the hotness of chilli as a way of rating questions proposed to “materialists”. Bill can be very creative too.

24th of July - Intelligent Design in Business Practice

Dembski cries and feels sorry for ID and wants to make it go into business practices. Be aware, the emptiness of ID has turned from school classrooms to business offices! Let’s see what ID has to offer for the success of the economies around the world.

Bill says:

Get used to it: ID is going every place that Darwinism has gotten its fetid little fingers.

I am seriously worried about Dembski’s state of mental health, no kidding. His bitterness has turned to this me-against-the-world ill feeling which has shown time and time again.

20th of July – Casey Luskin interviews Robert Marks, director of Baylor’s Evolutionary Informatics Lab

A short post by Bill advertising for his colleague Robert Marks. If you have read Bill’s post earlier, they are actually writing a very important and critical academic papers on, er, disproving Jesus Tomb.

20th of July – Kevin Padian: The Archie Bunker Professor of Paleobiology at Cal Berkeley

For those who aren’t familiar with Padian, he is a paleontologist who testified in the now famous Kitzmiller v. Dover trial in 2005 which led to the defeat of the Intelligent Design side. Here is the entire testimony by Padian. Given this background, no wonder our oh-so-lovely Bill takes issue with Padian.

Bill creatively calls Padian the Archie Bunker this month, and as reported here last month Bill called the evolutionary biologist Coyne Hermant Munster. I am eagerly waiting what Dembski the creative soul will come up next month.

Incredibly Bill is actually on the defensive for once.

For a rebuttal of Dembski’s whining and vileness, see the wonderful Jason Rosenburg’s post here (and its comments). Jason said well to sum up William Dembski’s mentality:

Mentally healthy human beings do not write paragraphs like that.

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