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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Researchers: Natural Selection Less Important Than Once Thought

From ScienceDaily:
Geography And History Shape Genetic Differences In Humans

ScienceDaily (June 7, 2009) — New research indicates that natural selection may shape the human genome much more slowly than previously thought. Other factors -- the movements of humans within and among continents, the expansions and contractions of populations, and the vagaries of genetic chance – have heavily influenced the distribution of genetic variations in populations around the world.

The study, conducted by a team from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the University of Chicago, the University of California and Stanford University, is published June 5 in the open-access journal PLoS Genetics.

But even with further research, much will remain unknown about the processes that have resulted in human traits. In particular, Pritchard and Coop urge great caution in trying to link selection with complex characteristics like intelligence. "We're in the infancy of trying to understand what signals of selection are telling us," says Coop, "so it's a very long jump to attribute cultural features and group charactristics to selection."
Which is a convoluted way of saying that evolutionary psychology is nonsense. We simply cannot know - beyond the obvious - what characteristics helped our ancestors adapt, or didn't, and for any given characteristic, it could go either way.

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Darwinism and pop culture: Pop fiction discovers the Discovery Institute

That shows, like nothing else, how the design debate is taking off. The previously faceless functionaries at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute get to be villains for the public at large, not just for threatened Darwinists, in a new anti-DI novel, The Book of God and Physics :
The Jesuits aren't the villains in this clash between God and physics. Joven's target is the real-life Discovery Institute, an American think-tank that promotes the theory of intelligent design. (Ross King, "Intelligent, By Design," June 9, 2009)
I wonder when the film is coming out. Pass the cheese popcorn.

PS: I have met the Discos. They are actually nice people just doin' a job, taking out the Darwin trash that the Darwinists can't take out themselves - on account of their theory having degenerated into a popular cult.

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Darwinism and pop culture: So now it's Darwin poems

ScienceMag's blog advises
On a visit to Cambridge last week to read her latest work, novelist and poet Emily Ballou offered that reflection on her 5 years researching the life of Charles Darwin. The result, her book The Darwin Poems, attempts to uncover the man behind the grand ideas that spawned evolutionary theory. The book follows the naturalist’s life from boyhood to after his death, with poems slicing through layers of Darwin’s character, exploring how his inquiring mind permeated his life’s work, his relationships, and his loss of faith in God....

…You can safely put God to bed now
the way you can’t your daughter anymore.
Tuck the sheets so tight he cannot move
and lock the bedroom door.
And what if it turns out that God is everywhere (omnipresent), so you meet Him on the stairs?


Darwinism and pop culture: Birds are really dinosaurs! now doubted

According to Science Daily,

Discovery Raises New Doubts About Dinosaur-bird Links

ScienceDaily (June 9, 2009) — Researchers at Oregon State University have made a fundamental new discovery about how birds breathe and have a lung capacity that allows for flight – and the finding means it's unlikely that birds descended from any known theropod dinosaurs.

The conclusions add to other evolving evidence that may finally force many paleontologists to reconsider their long-held belief that modern birds are the direct descendants of ancient, meat-eating dinosaurs, OSU researchers say.

"It's really kind of amazing that after centuries of studying birds and flight we still didn't understand a basic aspect of bird biology," said John Ruben, an OSU professor of zoology. "This discovery probably means that birds evolved on a parallel path alongside dinosaurs, starting that process before most dinosaur species even existed."
I'm kind of disappointed, because I had always hoped that birds were descended from dinosaurs. It would mean that they never really died out. But they did. And it has become permissible to say so.

The fun part is that - if this finding holds up - all the dinobird nonsense fronted by pop science mags as The Latest Truth is fishwrap. And Feduccia, long a sort of "denialist" in the fishwraps for doubting the popular legend, is vindicated.

I always say that - outside of mathematics - a proposition that can't be denied can't be believed either.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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Darwinism and pop culture: Darwin was an advocate of Social Darwinism

British physicist David Tyler reminds us of what no one ever need have doubted, except for the Darwin cult, Darwin was indeed an advocate of Social Darwinism and a racist. Not unusual for his time, to be sure, but he gave many vicious ideas "scientific" status - and that was unusual.

Traditional racism depended on travellers' tales and crazy interpretations of the Scriptures. But many otherwise decent people believed that racism was "scientific," thanks to Darwin and Darwinism. Excerpt:
In this Bicentennial year of Darwin's birth, there are many who want to drive a wedge between Darwinism as a scientific theory and Darwinism as a philosophical, social or political theory. Here in the UK, we have a Templeton Foundation-funded project called "Rescuing Darwin" which seeks to do exactly this. Darwinism, it is claimed, is essentially a scientific theory and it needs to be rescued from the atheists, the social-engineers and others who are taking it far beyond the domain of science. Here is an excerpt from the report "Rescuing Darwin".
Sorry, won't work. The public attraction of Darwinism is precisely the crackpot causes it supports.


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