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Friday, January 14, 2011

Coffee!! Cloning extinct species: Jurassic Parking lot closer than we think?

Mammoth from La Brea tarpit

“Mammoth could be reborn in four years"Julian Ryall reports for Britain's Telegraph (13 Jan 2011):
The woolly mammoth, extinct for thousands of years, could be brought back to life in as little as four years thanks to a breakthrough in cloning technology.

Previous efforts in the 1990s to recover nuclei in cells from the skin and muscle tissue from mammoths found in the Siberian permafrost failed because they had been too badly damaged by the extreme cold.

But a technique pioneered in 2008 by Dr. Teruhiko Wakayama, of the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology, was successful in cloning a mouse from the cells of another mouse that had been frozen for 16 years.

[... ]

"The success rate in the cloning of cattle was poor until recently but now stands at about 30 per cent," he said. "I think we have a reasonable chance of success and a healthy mammoth could be born in four or five years."
What would it mean if humans recovered (not just discovered) a number of extinct species?

Note: Photo is by WolfmanSF, Wikimedia Commons

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How realistic is the film "Creation: The True Story of Charles Darwin"?

Well, don’t go without two hankies, says Michael Flannery,
I saw the movie some time ago and some of the details are a bit hazy but my general impression of the film was that it was heavy on psycho-drama and lite on facts.

The film portrays Darwin as fixated, even hallucinatory, over the death of his beloved daughter Annie. The death of Annie is seen as a crisis of faith for Charles, which some historians would agree with. But the film shows Darwin going in and out of reality ... There's little to substantiate this level of mental disturbance, although a good many very credible historians regard Darwin as surely a troubled neurotic (as do I).

My real problem is that the chronology seems out of order. In particular, the film shows Darwin getting Wallace's famous Ternate letter laying out his theory of natural selection much earlier than he really did. In the film Darwin gets the letter and lapses into a deep and prolonged depression.

In fact, there wasn't time for any of this. Darwin received Wallace's letter on June 18, 1858.

Rather than falling into a funk, as portrayed in the movie, the actual events suggest that Darwin flew into a panic. Calling in his close friends Charles Lyell and Joseph Hooker, he asked them what to do. They (all members of the Linnean Society) decided to read Wallace's letter along with Darwin's 1844 sketch and an 1857 letter between Darwin and Asa Gray at the next meeting.

The whole thing was crafted to give Darwin priority, with excerpts from his sketch and letter read first and Wallace's last. That meeting on July 1, 1858 can be regarded as the birth of evolution by natural selection. Obviously, Darwin had to cobble all this together on very short notice.

To make matters worse, Charles and Emma had illness at Down House at the time. His 15 year-old daughter Henrietta would recover but 19 month-old Charlie would die of fever. In fact, Darwin was burying his baby son and couldn't attend the Linnean Society meeting.

NONE OF THIS is in the movie. Instead Darwin is shown moping around depressed over Wallace's preemption until Emma snaps him out of it. Actually, to me the real history would have been far more interesting than this melodrama.
And, cough!, more realistic too. Parents of large families like Charles and Emma were likely well prepared for the fact that some children would probably die, and they deserve credit for sticking it out, not the easy implication that they collapsed like jilted movie stars in the face of an all-too-common heartbreak.


ID theorist Mike Behe tries to keep Darwinist Jerry Coyne focused

Mike Behe
Society must, after all, continue the fight against ADD (attention deficit Darwinism):
Try as one might to keep Darwinists focused on the data, some can't help reverting to their favorite trope: questioning Darwinism simply must be based on religion. Unfortunately Professor Coyne succumbs to this. Introducing his blog post he writes:
What role does the appearance of new genes, versus simple changes in old ones, play in evolution? There are two reasons why this question has recently become important.... The first involves a scientific controversy.... The second controversy is religious. Some advocates of intelligent design (ID)--most notably Michael Behe in a recent paper--have implied not only that evolved new genes or new genetic "elements" (e.g., regulatory sequences) aren't important in evolution, but that they play almost no role at all, especially compared to mutations that simply inactivate genes or make small changes, like single nucleotide substitutions, in existing genes. This is based on the religiously-motivated "theory" of ID, which maintains that new genetic information cannot arise by natural selection, but must installed [sic] in our genome by a magic poof from Jebus. [sic]
Jerry Coyne

Anyone who reads the paper, however, knows my conclusions were based on the reviewed experiments of many labs over decades. Even Coyne knows this. In the very next sentence he writes, inconsistently, "I've criticized Behe's conclusions, which are based on laboratory studies of bacteria and viruses that virtually eliminated the possibility of seeing new genes arise, but I don't want to reiterate my arguments here." Yet if my conclusions are based on "laboratory studies," then they ain't "religious," even if Coyne disagrees with them.
Professor Coyne is so upset, he imagines things that aren't in the paper. (They are "implied," you see.)
For more, go here.

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Intellectual freedom: Truly dangerous media ignored while meddlesome government fusses about trifles, until ...

Until the truly dangerous stuff becomes required reading, of course.

Media watchdog Brent Bozell thinks the storm of hogwash that social media inspired Tucson mass murderer Jared Loughner is dissipating.

None too soon. Bozell also raises the fact that Loughner was a heavy consumer of violence-themed music, and “troother” films
The wire services added that Loughner liked government-conspiracy documentaries like the 9/11-truther films "Loose Change" and "Zeitgeist," and bizarre cult films like "Donnie Darko," a 2001 movie summarized as "A troubled teenager is plagued by visions of a large bunny rabbit that manipulates him to commit a series of crimes."
Bozell does not advocate banning troothers and nutters; his message is “News media, shape up and do your homework!” For example, “It took 72 hours for Loughner's entertainment appetites to enter the media mainstream,” - sure, because the media mainstream was awash in junk rather than story research, so too busy to notice.

And those are the people who would control other media for everyone’s good?

On that last point, I’d also like to observe that truly dangerous media usually do not rate the attention of government before they emerge in calls to mass murder numbering in the millions.
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When business tries Darwinism ...

What you get is Enron, a friend writes, 

Just watched "The Smartest Guys in the Room" (about Enron's downfall).  Two things you might be interested in from the movie:
1. Skilling made *explicit* use of Darwinian principles in running the company.  He was inspired by The Selfish Gene, and had an employee review process which mimicked natural selection to remove the least fit employees.
2. The stock price was kept high simply because no one ever took a serious look at their books.  Anyone who did was threatened, and then bought out, and lone voices were silenced (I think there was a mention of a Merrill-Lynch person who downgraded Enron's stock, and Enron made them fire the employee, and afterward gave them lucrative deals). When people asked them how they made money, there was a lot of handwaving (similar to how Darwinists respond when people ask how natural selection produces information).
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