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Monday, October 11, 2010

Coffee!! Fox News story: Chances are 100 per cent that far off planet has life

How do we know? Faith in faith alone, the astronomer explained:
"Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say, my own personal feeling is that the chances of life on this planet are 100 percent," said Steven Vogt, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, during a press briefing today.

"I have almost no doubt about it."
Well, that settles it, I guess.

James M. Kushiner points out, at Mere Comments blog, re "Odds of Life on Nearby Planet '100 Percent,' Astronomer Says":
Did you hear about the astronomer, who said, get this, that the odds of life on nearby planet are 100 Percent? What was he thinking? What do astronomers know about biological life, and, besides, if the odds are 100 percent, then there are no odds--at least if I go to Arlington Race Track and find a horse that has a 100 percent chance of winning, they probably won't be taking bets on him. No odds there.

[ ... ]

I am not saying this planet could not support life. I am just wondering what are the chances that any given astronomer would peg a planet with so many unknowns or uncertainties with a probability of having life on it at 100 percent? Of course, if a news story is in play with a possible headline, I'd up those chances considerably, whatever they are.

If you want to read science, don't read the news.
Read more here. Kushiner is editor of the science and popular culture mag Salvo, pictured above.


British physicist David Tyler on today’s kinder, gentler Neanderthal

Neanderthal then and now. Says Tyler:

The archetypal image of Neanderthals has been one that reinforced the Darwinian story of human evolution. A Washington Post story puts it like this: "Early study of Neanderthals described them as very hairy, brutish, unable to talk or walk like more-modern humans." Although things have changed slowly, media presentations have continued to create an impression that does not differ much from this description. However, the evidence for their humanity has accumulated rather rapidly in recent years, and the past month has seen two significant additions to the literature. A Wired Science report introduces one of these studies like this:

"For decades, Neanderthal was cultural shorthand for primitive. Our closest non-living relatives were caricatured as lumbering, slope-browed simpletons unable to keep pace with nimble, quick-witted Homo sapiens. However, anthropologists have found evidence in recent years suggesting considerable Neanderthal sophistication, and not only in tool-making and hunting, but in their ability to feel [i.e. to show compassion]."

The first paper is concerned with the role of emotions in social relationships and re-appraises the archaeological record of Neanderthals and other Palaeolithic peoples. A summary is provided by Penny Spikins in an interview with Wired.

"We look in the archaeological record for evidence of individuals who were sick, and not able to care for themselves. We see that in early Homo, and by the time we get to Neanderthals, that kind of record becomes much more extensive. Take the "Old Man of Shanidar". He had had degenerative deformities in the base of his legs, would have had difficulty walking, and had a crushing injury to his cranium, so he was probably blind in his left eye. The bones show those injuries occurred when he was adolescent, and he lived to 40. He was probably looked after for 25 to 30 years, which implies that it wasn't just one person looking after him, but several. Most of our Neanderthal skeletons show some evidence of having been looked after for their injuries. And in the age of Neanderthals, you also start to see evidence of deliberate burials and funerary rites. That means a shared feeling."

Read more here. If you ask me, the conveniently dead Neanderthal supports whatever political correctness is going down.

In reality, you'd find Neanderthals who cared and ones who didn't, Neanderthals who talked and ones who just grunted and pointed, Neanderthals who made useful tools and ones who snitched them from sleeping neighbours. If they weren't like that, they weren't human after all. Rigid behaviour belongs to ant colonies, not human ones.


British physicist David Tyler on growing doubts about Darwinism in fruit flies

This empirical work is worth noting on two counts. First, we are here considering a mechanism that is central to Darwinian evolution. Positive natural selection of hereditable variation is the key (we are informed) to understanding how descent with modification occurs. However, the first set of empirical data relating to a sexually reproducing species does not confirm that modification works this way. This is why Long's comment is worth repeating: "This research really upends the dominant paradigm about how species evolve". Many scientists have long suspected that the Darwinian mechanisms are inadequate to account for large-scale transformation - these research findings provide empirical support for such doubts.

The other reason for taking an interest in this research is that the Darwinian paradigm has been widely used in the development of drugs for medical use. Whereas the classical view is that genes have specific functions, the new research supports the growing body of evidence that the norm is for genes to have pleiotropic effects. A novel SNP can then be expected to have not one, but many, effects. This has been underplayed by researchers of a darwinian persuasion.

"Based on that flawed paradigm, Rose noted, drugs have been developed to treat diabetes, heart disease and other maladies, some with serious side effects. He said those side effects probably occur because researchers were targeting single genes, rather than the hundreds of possible gene groups like those Burke found in the flies. Most people don't think of flies as close relatives, but the UCI team said previous research had established that humans and other mammals share 70 percent of the same genes as the tiny, banana-eating insect known as Drosophila melanogaster."

Read more here.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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