Monday, March 16, 2015

Discovery Institute Summer Seminars

Intelligent Design and Science and Society

The Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute announces two intensive 9-day seminars for college students to be held July 10-18, 2015.

The CSC Seminar on Intelligent Design in the Natural Sciences will prepare students to make research contributions advancing the growing science of intelligent design (ID). The seminar will explore cutting-edge ID work in fields such as molecular biology, biochemistry, embryology, developmental biology, paleontology, computational biology, ID-theoretic mathematics, cosmology, physics, and the history and philosophy of science. This seminar is open to students who intend to pursue graduate studies in the natural sciences or the philosophy of science. Applicants must be college juniors or seniors or already in graduate school.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Evolutionists Misrepresent Genetic Code

No Reason?

It would be a full time job to track down, monitor and document the scientific misrepresentations in the evolution literature. From textbooks and articles to websites, videos, popular books and the rest, the evolution literature is a continual stream of exaggerations and misrepresentations of the scientific evidence. Here is an example regarding the genetic code from the Public Broadcasting Service website:

Biologically and chemically, there is no reason why this particular genetic code, rather than any of millions or billions of others, should exist, scientists assert. Yet every species on Earth carries a genetic code that is, for all intents and purposes, identical and universal. The only scientific explanation for this situation is that the genetic code was the result of a single historic accident. That is, this code was the one carried by the single ancestor of life and all of its descendents, including us.

No reason for this particular genetic code? That is absurd. Thirty years ago it was shown to be an optimal code. Since then studies have shown a variety of unique characteristics, such as error-correction, of the genetic code.

In fact evolutionists have no scientific, credible explanation for how the code spontaneously arose. And yet leading evolutionists misguide people with the nonsensical and laughable claim that the genetic code is powerful evidence of evolution.

Religion drives science and it matters.

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Ed: Final link changed

Monday, March 9, 2015

Here is Another Retrovirus With an Important Function

Don’t Just Assume It’s Junk

The more that evolutionists claim nature is full of junk, the more that science finds uses for the junk. An intriguing example are the retroviruses which, for several years, have been found to have various functions. Yet another retrovirus function was published last fall in a study out of Canada. This retrovirus works with several proteins in human embryonic stem cells
and without it the stem cells lose their key functionalities.

Human endogenous retrovirus subfamily H (HERVH) is a class of transposable elements expressed preferentially in human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). Here, we report that the long terminal repeats of HERVH function as enhancers and that HERVH is a nuclear long noncoding RNA required to maintain hESC identity. Furthermore, HERVH is associated with OCT4, coactivators and Mediator subunits. Together, these results uncover a new role of species-specific transposable elements in hESCs.

As with previous human retrovirus examples, this finding forced evolutionists to hypothesize that the retrovirus, unbelievably, played a crucial role human evolution. As one report explained:

According to the study's lead author, Xinyi Lu, a postdoctoral researcher in Ng's laboratory, the emergence of the regulatory activities executed by HERV-H could represent an important step in the evolution of our early ancestors. "HERV-H first integrated into the primate genome around 45 million years ago and is only found in the primate genome," says Lu, "and so it may contribute to some of the differences between primates and other mammals."

How curious this is. A retrovirus is supposed to have evolved, and then it just happened to play an important role in the construction of humans. This is yet another example of the incredible serendipity that evolutionists envision at work in their theory. Do they ever wonder at the likelihood of a retrovirus just luckily fitting in to the evolutionary process, and serving in an important role in the production of increasingly complex organisms?

With evolution, science becomes not a search for how nature works, or what likely occurred in the past, but rather bizarre, unlikely tales that cannot be proven wrong.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Paper: Spontaneous Creation of the Universe From Nothing

A Two Thousand Year Old Project

Two thousand years ago the Epicureans believed that the world arose spontaneously. Their idea was that randomly veering atoms attained a great variety of configurations by chance, and would eventually find themselves forming stable, functional structures. And while this may seem unlikely, the immense universe provided a great many opportunities for those configurations to come about. In Cicero’s dialog, the Epicurean explains this to his stoic opponent:

You [stoics] would surely have no need of the activity of such a figure [a skilled craftsman] if you would only observe how unlimited, unbounded tracts of space extend in all directions. When the mind strains and stretches itself to observe these distances, it journeys abroad so far that it can observe no ultimate limit at which to halt. It is in this boundless extent of breadth, length, and height, then, that innumerable atoms of infinite quantity flit around. … There is space between them, yet they latch on to each other. In gripping each other they form a chain, as a result of which are fashioned the shapes and forms of things which you Stoics believe cannot be created without bellows and anvils. So you have implanted in our heads the notion of an external lord whom we are to fear day and night; for who would not stand in awe of a god who is a prying busybody, who foresees and reflects upon and observes all things, believing that everything is his business?

Cicero’s dialog reveals how little has changed in two thousand years and just how enduring certain metaphysical themes are. The Epicurean complains to the stoic that he does not appreciate the great size of the universe, that chance events are capable of producing functional structures, and that therefore there is no need to believe a sovereign Creator or “external lord,” who we must fear, is needed.

Though the terminology has changed, the ideas have not. This dialog from Cicero could have been written today. What goes around comes around.

Like the Epicureans, evolutionists believe that the world arose spontaneously. Darwin fulfilled this mandate for the origin of species. But the origin of everything else has been described by modern day Epicureans in the centuries before and after Darwin.

Evolutionary thought is by no means restricted to the species. Consciousness, life, the planets, the galaxy, and even the universe and its natural laws all are hypothesized to have arisen spontaneously.

This is a rather heroic mandate. It seems we do not live in a universe where functioning structures just happen to assemble. Not without other very clever structures to make it happen.

Yet evolutionists do not give this a second thought. They believe all this happened, even though the science does not support them. Last year this movement continued with a new paper entitled “Spontaneous creation of the universe from nothing.” According to evolutionists, this paper provided the mathematical proof of what they already had assumed to be true.

So there you have it. Evolutionists believe not only that giraffes, sharks, violets and moles spontaneously arose; they not only believe consciousness, love and emotion spontaneously arose; they not only believe life itself spontaneously arose; they not only believe the Sun, stars and cosmos spontaneously arose; they believe the entire universe itself spontaneously arose.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Warfare Thesis in Action: Why Jimmy Kimmel is Important

A Strengthening Tradition

On July 30 of last year Meredith Prohaska had the misfortunate of having a sore throat. At what would have been a routine visit to the doctor the 12-year-old’s mother was told that Meredith should have an HPV vaccine. By dinnertime Meredith was dead.

What exactly is the purpose of the HPV vaccine? Why are so many people so insistent that young girls be given a sequence of this vaccine? Because it offers protection against a virus that is sexually transmitted. And after all, aren’t all 12-year-old girls going to sleep around eventually?

Meredith Prohaska’s cause of death was not the HPV vaccine. At least that is what the official records say.* After all, as Hugh Hewitt assures us, correlation does not imply causation. And since the HPV vaccine did not cause Meredith’s death—or the many other devastating problems girls have experienced including terrible pain and uncontrolled seizures—it therefore is known to be safe.

That’s the message from Jimmy Kimmel, late-night comedian who turns serious when it comes to vaccines and those who aren’t sure about them. Kimmel castigates those “anti-vaxxers” with cutting sarcasm. Vaccines are perfectly safe and anyone who doubts that is fair game for public ridicule.

What is disturbing about Kimmel, and the many other voices of scorn, is not their pro-vaccine sentiment. Vaccines are a complex issue and certainly there are arguments in their favor. But vaccines are not perfectly safe. That is a simple fact that no responsible medical professional would deny. And of course the benefits and risks do not fit a simple formula. Each vaccine is different, and each person is different. Science can inform, but it cannot answer the difficult risk-reward tradeoff question.

The quandary is further complicated by the fact that the vaccine manufacturers have their own special federal law protecting them against the normal law suit process where adequate damages can be sought. Would you purchase an automobile from a company with no liability and immune from prosecution? Of course not.

What is disturbing about mockers such as Kimmel is that they represent a strengthening tradition of delegitimization and dismissal of a group of people. This is a powerful and dangerous division.

We’re not talking about spirited political disagreements. We’re talking about abhorrence and disgust.

This is a much stronger movement, and it is not limited to vaccinations. A host of other, equally complex issues also fuel this irrational odium, including global warming, evolution and abortion.

While these are complex issues, the common thread is that in all cases, the mockers hold to irrational positions. The passion is exceeded only by the ignorance.

The unmistakable underlying pattern, it seems to me, is the Warfare Thesis and its attendant scientism. The dressing up of thoughtful people as ignorant obstructionists at best, and as insidious characters at worst, is not a little concerning.

An excellent example of this is the play and movie, Inherit the Wind. It presents a ridiculous, insulting picture of people which, though contrived, is today taken as accurate and cogent. The irony is that the script was originally intended to combat McCarthyism. It has now become something far more dangerous.

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*Addendum: Further information from the Waukesha County medical via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Diphenhydramine intoxication — ingestion of a lethal level of an antihistamine — caused the death of Meredith Prohaska, though the manner of death is undetermined, Medical Examiner Lynda Biedrzycki said in a prepared statement. "There is no evidence that any vaccination caused or contributed to her death," Biedrzycki said.

Monday, March 2, 2015

MicroRNA Study: “We Liberated Ourselves” From the Evolution Requirement

And Had Great Success

MicroRNAs are short RNA molecules that regulate gene expression, for example, by binding to messenger RNA molecules which otherwise would code for a protein at a ribosome. MicroRNAs were first discovered in the 1990s but a full understanding of their numbers and distribution across different tissue types has been slow in coming. Increasingly MicroRNAs are understood to be lineage-specific and a new study further confirms this. lineage-specific structures are the antithesis of evolution and its expected common descent pattern. Instead, structures appear in a few species, or even in just a single species, and are nowhere else to be found. Biology, as John Ray found three centuries ago, is full of unique solutions.

The new study found that imposing the common descent pattern, where microRNAs must be conserved across species, is hampering the search:

These results highlight the limitations that can result from imposing the requirement that miRNAs be conserved across organisms. Such requirements will in turn result in our missing bona fide organism-specific miRNAs and could perhaps explain why many of these novel miRNAs have not been previously identified.

Evolutionary theory has been limiting the science. Indeed, while the common descent pattern has been the guide since the initial microRNA studies, these researchers liberated themselves from that constraint, and it appears this will lead to good scientific progress:

In the early days of the miRNA field, there was an emphasis on identifying miRNAs that are conserved across organisms … Nonetheless, species-specific miRNAs have also been described and characterized as have been miRNAs that are present only in one or a few species of the same genus. Therefore, enforcing an organism-conservation requirement during miRNA searches is bound to limit the number of potential miRNAs that can be discovered, leaving organism- and lineage-specific miRNAs undiscovered. In our effort to further characterize the human miRNA repertoire, we liberated ourselves from the conservation requirement: not surprisingly then, 56.7% of our newly discovered miRNAs are human-specific whereas 94.4% are primate- specific. Considering that many miRNA studies to date have focused on seeking and analyzing conserved miRNAs, it is not surprising that, of the human miRNAs in miRBase, we found a larger fraction to be conserved in rodents and invertebrates. These findings strongly suggest the possibility of a wide-ranging species-specific miRNA-ome that has yet to be characterized. Indeed, it is reasonable to expect that at least some of these novel primate-specific miRNAs participate in unexplored aspects of regulatory processes that cannot be captured by the currently available mouse disease models. Thus, not only could these newly discovered miRNAs provide new molecular insights but they could also help us define novel biomarkers for tissue or disease states.

The evolutionary assumption is needed for evolutionary studies, but not elsewhere.

The Warfare Thesis, Scientism and Vaccines

Hugh Hewitt Unhinged

Evolution is not merely a theory about biology. It is a much broader movement, tracing back to the Epicureans, that is more of a worldview than a particular theory. Of course evolution calls for a strictly naturalistic origins narrative. But it also has its own world view. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the so-called Warfare Thesis. Simply put, the idea is that naturalism is the pinnacle of scientific progress and that anyone who questions the dogma that the world arose spontaneously must be driven by nonscientific, religious motives. Hence there is a war between religion and science as scientists inexorably uncover new truths which the pious resist and oppose where they can. The Warfare Thesis can be traced back to the eighteenth century with thinkers such as Voltaire, Hume and Kant. Voltaire initiated what would become the unstoppable mythology of the Galileo Affair, reporting that Galileo had “groaned away his days in the dungeons of the Inquisition, because he had demonstrated by irrefragable proofs the motion of the earth.” Neither were true but this myth endures to this very day. Hume, with his arguments against natural theology, and Kant, with his celebration of the Enlightenment, portrayed the pious and the providentialists as na├»ve obstructionists. By the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries textbooks were informing students that Christians believed the Earth was flat until Columbus proved them wrong. Though the Warfare Thesis is well known to be a myth, it has an enduring and compelling appeal. No less a historian than Daniel J. Boorstin—Distinguished Professor of history at the University of Chicago, Director of the National Museum of History and Technology, and Twelfth Librarian of the United States Congress—promoted the flat Earth myth in his 1983 book, The Discoverers. Unfortunately, now in the Year 2015, the Warfare Thesis not only shows no signs of abating but is gathering yet more strength. Its misconceptions, stereotypes, delegitimizations and “we versus them” mentality are reaching a fever pitch.

One of the corollaries of the Warfare Thesis is scientism, the view of science as the objective source of truth. Poets deal with subjective feelings but scientists, in their spotless white lab coats, deal in unimpeachable facts. It is not uncommon to see “science” referred to as the authoritative source of all kinds of truths. We are told, for example, that products are scientifically proven and that research has now explained why people hold religious beliefs.

But scientism is not limited to advertisements and tabloids. In a recent Washington Post editorial piece, Fred Hiatt bemoans the fact that public opinion is not always aligned with scientific consensus. Hiatt’s opening sentence leaves little doubt what’s coming: “Sophisticated readers know a science denier when they see one.”

This is all Warfare Thesis. There are science “deniers” and there are sophisticated people who can spot them. If you disagree with “science” (as if there is such a monolithic thing), you are not a concerned or thoughtful citizen, you are a denier. In this “we versus them” world, the negative connotation is obvious.

Hiatt criticizes the “southern Bible-thumper denying the fossil in front of his nose.” Ah yes, those “southern Bible-thumpers.” They’re still denying the fossils, aren’t they. We really should do something about them.

Hiatt goes on to quote from polls showing that 88 percent of scientists believe genetically modified foods are safe to eat, compared with only 37 percent of the public; that 87 percent of scientists believe that climate change is mostly caused by human activity, compared with only 50 percent of the public; and that 98 percent of scientists believe that humans have evolved over time, compared with only 65 percent of the public.

Shouldn’t the public accede to the professionals? Shouldn’t we all accept the fact of man-made global warming? One wonders what Hiatt would do with the 13 percent of scientists who don’t go along with the politically-charged conclusion.

Hiatt apparently is not bothered that climate research is not exactly double-blind. Blackballing, funding pressures, career threats, peer-review manipulation, editorial board controls and even shutting down journals altogether are all part of the “science.”

Does Hiatt understand that science is conducted by humans and not robots? Humans with political, cultural, religious, social and career pressures and concerns. A few years ago global cooling was the concern. Indeed, as philosophers well understand, scientific consensus changes with the seasons and is hardly a paragon of truth. Scientists thought continental drift was crazy and that genetic mutations must be independent of need. Even Einstein rejected quantum mechanics. All of these are now well accepted.

None of this means that man-made global warming is not true. In spite of the data adjustments, and in spite of the thoughtful concerns that have been expressed, it may well be true. But we don’t need to start calling names when people aren’t sure.

What is disturbing about Hiatt’s editorial is that it appeared in the Washington Post, one of the nation’s leading newspapers. This dangerous exhibition of Warfare Thesis stereotypes and scientism is what leading opinion makers are thinking.

Nor is this merely a rare mistake of one journalist. This month’s cover of the venerable National Geographic magazine, pictured above, could hardly be a more explicit proclamation of the Warfare Thesis mythology. Inside Joel Achenbach explains the battle. He propagates the Flat Earth myth because, as he explains, some guy in South Dakota in 1893 built a flat-Earth model. And Achenbach ridicules any doubt about man-made global warming as a conspiracy theory. “The idea that hundreds of scientists,” writes Achenbach, “from all over the world would collaborate on such a vast hoax is laughable.”

Laughable? Apparently Achenbach is unaware that scientists “from all over the world” have agreed on all kinds of theories that were later discarded as clearly false. And what about the scientists who do not agree? Even James Lovelock admits that he was “a Little Too Certain.” Dismissive language and delegitimization are not helping.

Vaccines

This latest round of the Warfare Thesis has also featured concerns about vaccines. The most significant work in the formation of the Warfare Thesis was Andrew Dickson White’s 1896 volume, History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. White took the mythology to new levels, covering a wide spectrum of topics including vaccinations. Today, vaccinations continue to service the myth as evidenced by various commentators.

Radio journalist Hugh Hewitt, for example, has been castigating parents who do not vaccinate their children, assuring his listeners that vaccines are safe and the decision is a no-brainer. What about the many vaccine injuries? Hewitt echoes Hume with the absurd refrain that correlation does not imply causation. How then does Hewitt advocate vaccines in the first place?

But Hewitt has no time for such fine points as he belittles those who don’t go along. It’s Hume and White all over again. The lie that vaccines are safe because correlation does not imply causation did not begin with Hewitt. It is a common explanation used to dismiss and ridicule questions regarding vaccine risk.

CNN has also been attacking the vaccine issue. Reporter Sanjay Gupta recently interviewed the U.S. Surgeon General, urging him to recommend a federal law mandating vaccinations. Gupta became increasingly concerned in the interview, suggesting to the Surgeon General that those who do not vaccinate have sinister motives. Gupta unequivocally declared vaccines to be safe while the CNN anchor Jake Tapper was visibly angered at the thought of anyone declining vaccinations.

We are now living in a Warfare Thesis driven culture. Vaccines, as with the other topics that have been subsumed by this mythology, are far more complicated than this dangerous scientism allows. Vaccines have a long history of causing a wide spectrum of injuries and death. That is a scientific fact that all responsible researchers and health practitioners understand.

The message that vaccines carry no risk is simply a lie and an example of the dangers of White’s false history. Consider Lorrin Kain who died on December 22, 2009. In the spring of 1994, at the age of 6 weeks, Lorrin’s parents took their baby to be vaccinated. Their lives would never be the same. Lorrin sustained severe brain damage and would have uncontrolled seizures for the rest of her life. At the age of 15 she finally succumbed. And now the Kain’s are being told that the decision to vaccinate is clear-cut and that vaccines carry no risk.