Monday, May 28, 2007

Creationism Museum Opens in US

Actually I see this as an opportunity for education rather than a disaster.
And of course, its the perfect target for humor.

Friday, May 11, 2007


Critical thinking, we REALLY need more of it.

Beware the Crocoduck

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
"Beware the Crocoduck, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

Unfortunately they are not joking.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Favourite Movie Scenes

The Marseillaise, in Casablanca
Less than two minutes long yet it explains the whole movie.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Coming soon......Dawkins v Deepak?

Dawkins on 'The Hour'
Not a bad interview. Interesting to hear that he has a new Channel 4 series coming out in July -
'The Enemies of Reason', in which he debates the god of Woo! himself, Deekap Chopra.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Carl Sagan - Pale blue dot

Fine video set to Sagans words.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Public Exposure to Great Scientists Of Our Time

In light of the recent discussion of the topic of 'Framing Science' on the blogosphere I noticed that the experts in the field, most notably Matthew Nisbet, seemed to give the impression that the success of scientists was in no small way linked to their exposure to the public. That said, I have done a quick survey by way of our friend Google that indicates the number of hits returned after typing in a few notable scientists names - in quotation marks.

59 000 - google hits

Craig Mello

Professor of Molecular Medicine University of Massachusetts Medical School

Co-discoverer of RNA interference technique and biological pathway.

Nobel Prize for Medicine 2006

31 800 - google hits

Casey Luskin

No comment

27 100 - google hits

Motoo Kimura

Evolutionary Geneticist

Introduced the neutral theory of molecular evolution in 1968

26 700 - google hits

Fred Sanger

Determined the amino acid sequence of insulin in 1955 – Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1958

Developed dideoxy chain termination DNA sequencing technique – Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1980

16 600 - google hits

John Mattick

Professor of Molecular Biology at the University of Queensland

Developed one of the first recombinant DNA-based vaccines

Renowned expert on non-coding RNA

15,900 - google hits

Susumu Ohno

Genetic pioneer

Discovered that the cellular structures known as Barr bodies were in fact inactivated X chromosomes.

Pioneered the idea of evolution by gene duplication

Coined the term “junk DNA”

Wrote the 1971 landmark paper “Genetic implication of karyological instability of malignant somatic cells” describing cancer as a genetic disease and putting forward the two-hit hypothesis of mutation-induced tumors.'

9, 820 - google hits

Sidney Brenner

Discoverer with Francis Crick of frame shift mutations

Advocate of C.elegans as a model system for genetic analysis

Nobel Prize in 2002

Has Dawkins gone too far ?

Taking on God was one thing, but I suspect he may have overstepped the bounds with his new one.

“The Goth teenager is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fashion: pierced and proud of it; a petty, unwashed, unforgiving freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty and infrequent cleanser; a misanthropic, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent oik. And have you ever listened to the music ?”

Friday, May 4, 2007

Ultraconserved Genomic Elements

Here's a nice talk by Gil Bejerano formerly of UCSC and now at Stanford. Its a good basic primer on how comparative genomics can be used to uncover genetic regulatory elements. His main theme was that these particular elements function through binding proteins with transcriptional regulatory properties.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Is Intelligent Design Anti-Christian?

It has become clear over the past number of years that certain sections of society are involved in a campaign aimed at undermining the beliefs and credibility of the Christian church.
One such group, the Seattle based Discovery Institute, above all others is involved in a stealth campaign involving the spread of a blatantly anti-Christian philosophy termed the theory of ‘Intelligent Design’ .

In their own words “The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.”
At first glance such a statement may seem innocuous enough but the underlying implications for Christian dogma are devastating.

The identification of coded information contained in the nucleotide sequence of DNA is frequently compared by ID advocates to human derived computer code, clearly implying that the intelligent design inherent in computer coding is analogous to that seen in DNA. If one takes at face value the theory that identifying something that shows clear design means that this design must be the work of an intelligent agent then one must follow the logic through.

As recently pointed out by Nick Gisburne the problem arises due to the essential feature of all structures that we know are designed, this being that unambiguous design is an incremental process. For instance take a watch, found on a hilltop while one is out walking.

Is this structure random? No.

Is it the result of design? Yes.

Who is the designer?

Herein resides our dilemma.

A watch, in common with all other unambiguously designed structures, does not have a single designer.
It has had a multitude of designers.
In order to produce a watch one needs the accumulated inventions of countless metallurgists, glassmakers, jewellers and engineers.
And even then we need improvements to the original working model, stylistic alteration to vary its aesthetic appeal, tinkering to improve its timekeeping accuracy.

Fred Hoyle once made a comparison of a hurricane tearing through a junkyard and leaving behind a fully assembled 747 jumbo jet as an example of the improbability of complex life beginning through a random assembly of organic molecules. Carl Sagan, characteristically, turned this metaphor to his advantage by pointing out that the first plane was not, in fact a 747, but a cobbled together contraption made of cloth and bicycle parts and a home made engine that looked, not like the pinnacle of modern engineering, but pretty much resembled something thrown together by just such a storm.
Since the debut of that 1903 flyer there has been much progress in aeronautical physics and more than a few advancements in aircraft engineering and production.

Whatever else has caused the 747 to exist it surely wasn’t a single designer.

In the case of computer code we are left with the same problem. The code we find today is the result of decades of alterations and improvements by a myriad of designers starting with an original barely functional prototype code.

The design inference clearly infers the accumulated work of multiple designers.
It is plain that the Discovery Institute, in advocating a hypothesis that necessitates multiple designers, are paving the way for a polytheistic metaphysical world outlook.

Unfortunately for those Christians mistaken in their belief that the design hypothesis supports a single creator model for the origin of life, it is in reality an implicit call for the rejection of monotheistic viewpoints in favour of those such as the Hindu, Viking or Greek religions who actually have enough ‘Gods’ to carry the process to completion.

Those Discovery Institute blighters.

Have they no shame!