Science & Faith

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Posted 11/23/13 at 8:12 PM | Mike Keas

Biomimetics: Design in Nature Mimicked by Human Engineers

Biomimetics is devoted to building technologies that mimic biochemical processes in living organisms. Human engineers have much to learn from the wonders of design in the biological world. Some recent advancements in this field also remind us of how biological designs are best explained as real, as opposed to only apparent, intelligent design.

Photo credit: University of Alabama

Intelligent Designs in Nature Make Engineers Envious

A news item from the University of Alabama shows Dr. Amy Lang studiously gazing at a Monarch butterfly on the wing. She has reason to stay focused. She just got a $280,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study the scales on butterfly wings to find ways to improve flight aerodynamics for MAVs (micro area vehicles).

Butterflies don't require the scales to fly, but Dr. Lang knows they help the insects fly better. "The butterfly scales are beautifully arranged on the wing, and how the scales are arranged is where the aerodynamic benefit comes in," she says. This "unique micro pattern ... reduces drag and likely increases thrust and lift during flapping and glided flight." When the scales are removed, the butterfly has to flap its wings 10 percent more to maintain the same flight. Read more. FULL POST

Posted 11/18/13 at 9:37 PM | Mike Keas

New Documentary Explores C.S. Lewis's Struggle with Arguments for Intelligent Design

Wikipedia: C.S. Lewis

A new documentary has just been released in order to commemorate the 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis's death (November 22, 1963). Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia and many literary-philosophical works, engaged in a life-long struggle to find meaningful design and enduring purpose in a world filled with cruelty, pain, and imperfection.

The documentary "C.S. Lewis and Intelligent Design" premieres today on the NRB cable and satellite network and the YouTube C.S. Lewis Channel. The documentary unpacks portions of a book edited by Dr. John West titled The Magician's Twin: C.S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society.

"C.S. Lewis is well-known for defending the existence of God, but he actually struggled for much of his life to see purpose in a universe that often seemed cold and heartless," says West. "In 'C.S. Lewis and Intelligent Design,' we explore the fascinating story of how Lewis became persuaded that design in nature was real." FULL POST

Posted 11/14/13 at 9:52 AM | Mike Keas

Intelligently Designed in the Lab: Biotech Guru Craig Venter Asks "What is Life?"

Apple Maps (Mavericks) 3D rendering of the Venter Institute (showing early construction)

What is life? How did it originate? If we could build a simple organism artificially in the lab, would we better understand the answers to these questions? Craig Venter thinks so, and he often speaks in public as if he and his scientific team were striving to do just that, and much more.

Biotech guru Craig Venter addressed such pressing issues in his October 2013 book, Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life. Meanwhile his new San Diego biotech facility celebrated its grand opening on November 9, 2013. Former Vice President Al Gore graced the event with a speech (see the party pics here). "We cannot think of a more appropriate person to commemorate the opening of our net zero carbon, ultra green genomics lab than Al Gore," announced Venter. (Venter is probably unaware that sea ice in the Antarctic has increased inconveniently by about one percent per decade since 1979, despite Al Gore's Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning expectations to the contrary). FULL POST

Posted 11/9/13 at 5:57 PM | Mike Keas

Why Would the Journal Science Refuse to Publish Meyer's Letter about Marshall's Review?

Below my last post Final Thoughts on Marshall's Failed Critique of Meyer's "Darwin's Doubt" SkepticNY made comments that include those indented below:

What specific, concrete explanation do YOU propose for the appearance of the fossils whenever they do appear?

Regarding the fossils of the major new animal body plans in the Cambrian explosion, all we know from scientific inquiry is that all of this radically new anatomy requires an adequate cause, and intelligent design is the only kind of cause that is adequate to get the job done. SkepticNY, I have never had the honor of meeting you in person, but I know that you are an intelligent agent who produces complex sequence specific code in the form of comments. The Cambrian explosion is similar. All we know is this event in earth history involved a huge influx of complex sequence specific code, but billions of times more than you have produced over the past year as a faithful comment author here at CP. Scientists need to limit their conclusions to the available evidence. That is what Meyer does in his book. I wish we knew more than this from scientific inquiry, but we need to be modest about what we know.

What peer reviewed main-stream scientific journals has Meyer's ideas been published in?

See this list of peer-reviewed pro-ID articles (Meyer is in this list, which includes over 50 published articles, and which is further explained here). This list would be many times longer if it were not for the discriminatory practice exemplified yet again by the editors of the journal Science. Let me explain what I mean by addressing this to my commenting friend who apparently lives in NY.

Dear SkepticNY, I encourage you to read the letter by Dr. Meyer that the peer reviewed journal Science would not publish. What exactly in this letter legitimately disqualifies it from publication in Science? Meyer's letter pinpoints the main scientific issues raised by the Cambrian explosion. Marshall is the one who is trying to avoid how the Cambrian explosion is a huge evidential challenge to Darwinism (he is being evasive). So, I encourage you to quote from this letter by Meyer and explain how it is undeserving of publication in the journal Science. Thanks SkepticNY.

FULL POST

Posted 11/4/13 at 8:20 PM | Mike Keas

Final Thoughts on Marshall's Failed Critique of Meyer's "Darwin's Doubt" (Time to Change the Subject?)

Today we will see a few more indications of the woeful inadequacy of Charles Marshall's critique of Meyer's book Darwin's Doubt. This will complete a series of posts on Marshall vs. Meyer that are backward linked: start here and follow the links backward in time if you missed my earlier posts.

In previous posts I've highlighted and further explained how Meyer refutes Marshall's main two contentions that:

  1. The Cambrian explosion would not have required a significant increase in new genetic information.
  2. Meyer's positive argument for intelligent design, based on the need for an increase in genetic and epigenetic biological information, represents a purely negative "god-of-the-gaps" argument.

In this concluding blog we will consider a few criticisms that Marshall makes of Darwin's Doubt.

Marshall writes:

Meyer completely omits mention of the Early Cambrian small shelly fossils and misunderstands the nuances of molecular phylogenetics, both of which cause him to exaggerate the apparent suddenness of the Cambrian explosion. FULL POST

Posted 11/2/13 at 3:31 PM | Mike Keas

Meyer's Design Argument: Crippled by "God of the Gaps" Flaw?

We are making progress here interacting with comments under "Science & Faith" blogs. Thanks everyone for participating. See, for example, the comment dialogue under my last coverage of Charles Marshall's review in Science vs. Stephen Meyer's book Darwin's Doubt. The objection and reply section of my last post could have discussed the "god of the gaps" charge against Meyer that Marshall (and comment authors here at CP) have launched. We shall address that charge in today's blog instead, as I had promised. In so doing, I shall weigh in on some of the comments under my last few blogs on Meyer vs. Marshall.

Marshall's third paragraph in his eight-paragraph review of Meyer reads:

Meyer's scientific approach is negative. He argues that paleontologists are unable to explain the Cambrian explosion, thus opening the door to the possibility of a designer's intervention. This, despite his protest to the contrary, is a (sophisticated) "god of the gaps" approach, an approach that is problematic in part because future developments often provide solutions to once apparently difficult problems. FULL POST

Posted 10/28/13 at 10:20 AM | Mike Keas

Genes and Gaps: Marshall vs. Meyer's Book "Darwin's Doubt"

In my post Distinguished UC Berkeley Paleontologist Reviews Meyer's Book "Darwin's Doubt" I introduced the Marshall-Meyer debate and promised to cover more of it later. Today I shall respond to comments below my original post and cover part 2 of Meyer's multi-part response to Marshall, which is accessible here as a complete list of Meyer's postings on this debate. The purpose of my Marshall-Meyer series here at CP is to widen the audience of this debate and to interact with that audience (you, my valued readers).

Here some objections (comments below my original post or common objections similar to them) and replies:

Objection: Meyer quotes very little of Marshall and/or insufficiently deals with the contents of Marshall's review.

Reply: Follow the links to all the parts of Meyer's response to Marshall here, or keep reading this post and my sequel posts that are forthcoming to see why this was a premature (and false) judgment. Meyer deals with the substantive parts of Marshall's review, as you shall see. Furthermore, the only part of Marshall's review that deals with Meyer's scientific argument amounts to only four paragraphs out of the total review consisting of eight paragraphs. FULL POST

Posted 10/22/13 at 9:35 PM | Mike Keas

The Happy Atheist: PZ Myers' Book Tries to Modify His Own "Angry Atheist" Persona

Wikimedia Commons: Photo of PZ Myers by Larry Moran

"I want to be really clear about something. I am an atheist. I care deeply about the atheist movement. I'm also an angry anti-theist, and I want to see religion kicked off its pedestal. I’m also a scientist, and think reason and evidence and scientific thought aren’t just good ideas, but the best ideas humanity has ever had, and also the essential ideas that we need for survival and progress. I want a strong atheist movement, because that’s how these ideas will get advanced into the mainstream. We’re not going to conquer the world by scattering into a rabble of divided loners." (emphasis mine) --PZ Myers, Pharyngula Blog, September 6, 2013

I cruised PZ's Pharyngula blog hunting for specimens of "reason and evidence and scientific thought." Most of what I found in several weeks of his most recent postings had little to do with "reason and evidence and scientific thought." Had I just picked an atypical sample of his blog? I'd like to believe the best about a person, until it becomes clear otherwise. Sure, he uses good arguments to knock down the very dubious claim that aliens creatures visited earth in the past (curiously Dawkins takes this kind of view seriously to possibly explain the origin of life on earth, as he testifies near the end of the documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed). But clearly, the prominent theme of PZ's blog is captured by one of PZ's own self-identifying labels: "an angry anti-theist." PZ is fond of ridiculing religion, especially theism, and most often Christianity.

This brief adventure in PZ blog territory might make one curious about why PZ recently published a book called The Happy Atheist. Casey Luskin has a plausible explanation:

After decades of cultural blunders, atheists are increasingly aware of the need to improve public relations. Last year we saw that Sean Faircloth, Director of Strategy and Policy for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, wrote a book advising atheists to hide the more radical aspects of their agenda, the ones that don't win them any goodwill from the public, and instead focus on "marketing" concerns that result in good PR. As another example, many atheists are aware of the old negative stereotype of the "angry atheist." Evolutionary biologist PZ Myers, a leading New Atheist, thought he could help reverse that perception by titling his first book, released earlier this year, The Happy Atheist. FULL POST

Posted 10/19/13 at 9:00 PM | Mike Keas

Russell's Teapot: How Theists and Atheists Share the "Burden of Support."

I just posted a new blog today entitled: How Theists and Atheists Share the "Burden of Support." But due to an error, it is back-dated to October 15. Go here to find it. As you will see, this blog shows how Bertrand Russell's famous "Teapot" illustration relates to the God question. Some people deeply misunderstand what "burden of proof" really means when it comes to the God question, which is actually the question about what is the prime reality.

Posted 10/15/13 at 11:16 PM | Mike Keas

Venus Flytrap Catches Prey in 1/10th Second: Darwinists are Caught in Another Puzzle

Wikimedia Commons
Venus flytrap

In a summary article about the recent research of a team of German scientists, Colin Brownlee writes:

The Venus flytrap digests and absorbs its prey, but how does it coordinate digestion and absorption to maximise the efficiency of this highly evolved mechanism? A new study that combines direct recordings from cells within the trap along with molecular characterization of nutrient transport reveals a complex and coordinated suite of mechanisms that underlie this elegant process (emphasis mine). Colin Brownlee, "Carnivorous Plants: Trapping, Digesting and Absorbing All in One," Current Biology, Volume 23, Issue 17, 9 September 2013, Pages R714-R716. FULL POST

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