Tag Archives: Religion Vs Science

New study: parrots have similar brain mechanisms to humans

A cockatoo uses a little tool he made to reach a snack
A cockatoo uses a little tool he made to reach a snack

OK, it’s a fun Friday post. I guess most of my readers know that I love almost all the birds, and especially parrots. I have owned parrots most of my life, and want to get more, too. I also like to feed the wild birds who come to visit my house. One reason I like them so much is that they are very intelligent and obviously designed by a very clever engineer.

First, let me explain what convergence is, then we’ll look at a recent peer-reviewed scientific publication.

We have to start this Science Daily post with the definition of convergence in biology.

In evolutionary biology, convergent evolution is the process whereby organisms not closely related (not monophyletic), independently evolve similar traits as a result of having to adapt to similar environments or ecological niches.

It is the opposite of divergent evolution, where related species evolve different traits.

On a molecular level, this can happen due to random mutation unrelated to adaptive changes; see long branch attraction. In cultural evolution, convergent evolution is the development of similar cultural adaptations to similar environmental conditions by different peoples with different ancestral cultures. An example of convergent evolution is the similar nature of the flight/wings of insects, birds, pterosaurs, and bats.

All four serve the same function and are similar in structure, but each evolved independently.

So, naturalists say that if two organisms have traits that are similar, it must mean that the trait evolved once in their ancestors, and then the modern species inherited the trait from those ancestors. If evolution is true, the only mechanism they have to develop traits shared by two organisms is mutation and selection. The problems occur when two organisms share similar traits, but they have no recent common ancestor, and no recent shared evolutionary history of mutation and selection.

Here’s the latest study from the New Scientist:

To learn more how these birds’ brains develop, Mello and his team compared the genome of the blue-fronted Amazon parrot with that of 30 other birds. They found that regions of the parrot genome that regulate when and how genes for brain development are turned on are the same as those found in humans. These so-called ultra-conserved elements evolved in both species at different times, but with similar results.

Well, parrots and humans are completely different creatures, with no recent evolutionary history, and no recent common ancestors. So, if these changes are due to evolution, then we should see them in the very very very distance common ancestor shared by birds and humans. But then shouldn’t they be in all the other animals who descend from that very very very distant common ancestor to?

Watch this:

I’ll tell you what the real explanation is: the real explanation is that God created birds and humans. And, like a clever engineer, he re-used components that produced the behavior he wanted in his birds and his humans. We know how this works, because this is how intelligent agents write code today. Why do we need a naturalistic theory that requires magic to work, when we have a simple explanation that we can  observe every time someone writes a blog post, or some code, or anything with information in it?

Anyway, however you feel about that, try to be kind to birds, as they are much smarter and more sensitive than most people think. Put out some bird feeders in the yard, if you don’t have an outdoor cat. And if you do have a cat, then why not put a bell on it, or keep it indoors?

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New study: parrots have similar brain mechanisms to humans

A cockatoo uses a little tool he made to reach a snack
A cockatoo uses a little tool he made to reach a snack

OK, it’s a fun Friday post. I guess most of my readers know that I love almost all the birds, and especially parrots. I have owned parrots most of my life, and want to get more, too. I also like to feed the wild birds who come to visit my house. One reason I like them so much is that they are very intelligent and obviously designed by a very clever engineer.

First, let me explain what convergence is, then we’ll look at a recent peer-reviewed scientific publication.

We have to start this Science Daily post with the definition of convergence in biology.

In evolutionary biology, convergent evolution is the process whereby organisms not closely related (not monophyletic), independently evolve similar traits as a result of having to adapt to similar environments or ecological niches.

It is the opposite of divergent evolution, where related species evolve different traits.

On a molecular level, this can happen due to random mutation unrelated to adaptive changes; see long branch attraction. In cultural evolution, convergent evolution is the development of similar cultural adaptations to similar environmental conditions by different peoples with different ancestral cultures. An example of convergent evolution is the similar nature of the flight/wings of insects, birds, pterosaurs, and bats.

All four serve the same function and are similar in structure, but each evolved independently.

So, naturalists say that if two organisms have traits that are similar, it must mean that the trait evolved once in their ancestors, and then the modern species inherited the trait from those ancestors. If evolution is true, the only mechanism they have to develop traits shared by two organisms is mutation and selection. The problems occur when two organisms share similar traits, but they have no recent common ancestor, and no recent shared evolutionary history of mutation and selection.

Here’s the latest study from the New Scientist:

To learn more how these birds’ brains develop, Mello and his team compared the genome of the blue-fronted Amazon parrot with that of 30 other birds. They found that regions of the parrot genome that regulate when and how genes for brain development are turned on are the same as those found in humans. These so-called ultra-conserved elements evolved in both species at different times, but with similar results.

Well, parrots and humans are completely different creatures, with no recent evolutionary history, and no recent common ancestors. So, if these changes are due to evolution, then we should see them in the very very very distance common ancestor shared by birds and humans. But then shouldn’t they be in all the other animals who descend from that very very very distant common ancestor to?

Watch this:

I’ll tell you what the real explanation is: the real explanation is that God created birds and humans. And, like a clever engineer, he re-used components that produced the behavior he wanted in his birds and his humans. We know how this works, because this is how intelligent agents write code today. Why do we need a naturalistic theory that requires magic to work, when we have a simple explanation that we can  observe every time someone writes a blog post, or some code, or anything with information in it?

Anyway, however you feel about that, try to be kind to birds, as they are much smarter and more sensitive than most people think. Put out some bird feeders in the yard, if you don’t have an outdoor cat. And if you do have a cat, then why not put a bell on it, or keep it indoors?

Related posts

Is Eugenie Scott right? Are there no peer-reviewed papers supporting ID?

The video above is discussed in this must-hear podcast, featuring Casey Luskin.

The MP3 file is here.

Details:

On this episode of ID The Future, Casey Luskin puts to rest once and for all the common assertion by opponents of intelligent design that there are no scientific papers supporting the claims of ID. This wasn’t true in 2005 when Eugenie Scott of the NCSE stated it on MSNBC and it certainly isn’t true six years later. Luskin discusses the most recent scientific paper, by Stephen Meyer and Paul Nelson, and talks about the importance of the peer-reviewed scientific literature: “These papers collectively make a case that intelligent causation is necessary to produce the sort of biological complexity that we are discovering in the cell today.”

If you listen to the podcast, Luskin goes over some of the recent peer-reviewed papers that support ID. But much more importantly, he proves that Eugenie Scott is a liar. She is literally caught in a lie in the video above. She claims that there are no peer-reviewed papers that support ID. Stephen Meyer cites a peer-reviewed paper that he authored. Eugenie Scott claims that the paper does not mention ID. Casey Luskin reads from the paper. The paper explicitly supports ID. Eugenie Scott lied in order to defend her religion of naturalism from the scientific publication that falsifies it.

Here’s an excerpt from the paper that Eugenie Scott claims doesn’t support intelligent design:

Does neo-Darwinism or any other purely materialistic model of morphogenesis account for the origin of the genetic and other forms of CSI necessary to produce novel organismal form? If not, as this review has argued, could the emergence of novel information-rich genes, proteins, cell types and body plans have resulted from actual design, rather than a purposeless process that merely mimics the powers of a designing intelligence? The logic of neo-Darwinism, with its specific claim to have accounted for the appearance of design, would itself seem to open the door to this possibility. Indeed, the historical formulation of Darwinism in dialectical opposition to the design hypothesis (Gillespie 1979), coupled with the neo-Darwinism’s inability to account for many salient appearances of design including the emergence of form and information, would seem logically to reopen the possibility of actual (as opposed to apparent) design in the history of life.

And:

Yet it is precisely for this reason that current advocates of the design hypothesis want to reconsider design as an explanation for the origin of biological form and information. This review, and much of the literature it has surveyed, suggests that four of the most prominent models for explaining the origin of biological form fail to provide adequate causal explanations for the discontinuous increases of CSI that are required to produce novel morphologies. Yet, we have repeated experience of rational and conscious agents–in particular ourselves–generating or causing increases in complex specified information, both in the form of sequence-specific lines of code and in the form of hierarchically arranged systems of parts.

And:

There is a third reason to consider purpose or design as an explanation for the origin of biological form and information: purposive agents have just those necessary powers that natural selection lacks as a condition of its causal adequacy. At several points in the previous analysis, we saw that natural selection lacked the ability to generate novel information precisely because it can only act after new functional CSI has arisen. Natural selection can favor new proteins, and genes, but only after they perform some function. The job of generating new functional genes, proteins and systems of proteins therefore falls entirely to random mutations. Yet without functional criteria to guide a search through the space of possible sequences, random variation is probabilistically doomed. What is needed is not just a source of variation (i.e., the freedom to search a space of possibilities) or a mode of selection that can operate after the fact of a successful search, but instead a means of selection that (a) operates during a search–before success–and that (b) is guided by information about, or knowledge of, a functional target.

And the conclusion:

An experience-based analysis of the causal powers of various explanatory hypotheses suggests purposive or intelligent design as a causally adequate–and perhaps the most causally adequate–explanation for the origin of the complex specified information required to build the Cambrian animals and the novel forms they represent. For this reason, recent scientific interest in the design hypothesis is unlikely to abate as biologists continue to wrestle with the problem of the origination of biological form and the higher taxa.

Those are just a few excerpts.

According to Eugenie Scott, this paper “doesn’t mention intelligent design”. She is a liar.

In listening to this podcast, it really struck me how proponents of evolution must lie in order to defend their religion – the religion of naturalism. You would think that the refutation of naturalism by the Big Bang cosmology would cause these naturalists to abandon the religion of naturalism, and be open to the reality of non-material intelligent causation. But it’s not the case. Naturalists must necessarily oppose the progress of science. They oppose the Big Bang cosmology. They oppose the cosmic fine-tuning. They oppose origin of life research. They oppose the fossils found in the Cambrian explosion. They oppose findings showing the high requirements for habitable galaxies, solar systems and planets.

It’s a case of religion versus science. The speculations of a blind-faith religion against the experimental results of scientific research. The anti-ID people have the religion of naturalism to defend, and the pro-ID people have the science.  One side is willing to lie about nature, and the other side tells the truth about nature.

If you missed it, my previous post noted how the list of pro-ID peer-reviewed papers is now up to 50.

How the Obama administration opposes the creation of 100,000 jobs

Comparison of unemployment rates - Bush vs Obama
Comparison of unemployment rates - Bush vs Obama

The Wall Street Journal reports on how Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency is trying to block a pipeline from Alberta that would create 100,000 jobs and lower oil prices at the pump.

Excerpt:

With 9.1% unemployment and gasoline prices in the stratosphere, President Obama must sometimes wish that some big corporation would suddenly show up and offer a shovel-ready, multibillion-dollar project to create 100,000 jobs and reduce U.S. reliance on oil from dictatorships.

Oh, wait. His Secretary of State has had that offer sitting on her desk since she was sworn in. The trouble is that the Administration can’t approve it without upsetting its anti-fossil fuel constituency. And so the proposal sits.

In September 2008 TransCanada applied to build a new pipeline—the Keystone XL—to bring diluted bitumen from the oil-rich tar sands of Alberta to thirsty American refineries on the Gulf Coast. It is hardly a radical proposal. Canadian crude has been flowing to the U.S. for decades. Another Canadian company—Enbridge—operates the Clipper pipeline across the Canadian border to Chicago. In July 2010 TransCanada began operating its Keystone pipeline from Alberta to Cushing, Oklahoma, which is a major storage and pricing depot.

The Keystone XL would cut a slightly different path, through the American heartland to Port Arthur, Texas. Judging from its past experience and that of Enbridge, TransCanada expected that permitting would take roughly 23 months. Thirty-three months, two State Department studies and 208,000 public comments later, TransCanada is still waiting. On current trend, the company will be lucky to get its permit by January, or after 40 months. But even that is far from certain.

If Mr. Obama were drawing up a plan from scratch to boost union employment and deflate Iranian-ally Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, it might look like the Keystone XL. TransCanada estimates that building the pipeline will mean more than $20 billion—$13 billion from TransCanada itself—in investment and 13,000 new American jobs in construction and related manufacturing. The company also expects more than 118,000 “spin-off” jobs during the two years of construction.

TransCanada says it has signed building contracts with four major U.S. unions. It projects that construction will generate $600 million in new state and local tax revenue and that over its life the pipeline will generate another $5.2 billion in property taxes. The Energy Policy Research Foundation in Washington estimates that by linking to the XL, oil producers in North Dakota’s Bakken region will enjoy efficiency gains of between $36.5 million and $146 million annually. Lower transport costs will mean savings for Gulf Coast refiners of $473 million annually if the pipeline meets conservative expectations of shipping 400,000 barrels per day.

Today those refineries are highly dependent on imports from Mexico and Venezuela, which have decreased output in recent years. TransCanada would help to provide Gulf Coast refiners with a more reliable source of supply from a U.S. ally.

Obama wants to create jobs – he just wants to create jobs in Mexico, Venezuela and the Middle East.

Denyse O’Leary explains why theists are lacking courage

From Uncommon Descent. Denyse O’Leary answers the question I posed in my previous post: why do otherwise intelligent, ambitious, qualified Christians shy away from answering questions about their faith?

Excerpt:

Christians confront a deep double standard, to which Darwinism has greatly contributed, by which the atheist position is considered the normal “secular”one and the Christian or other theist position a sort of disloyalty to the public good.

[…] Secular materialists use fashionable words like “skeptical” to describe themselves, when they are not skeptical at all. That confuses discourse and enables remarkably fatuous people to shape public opinion. While working on The Spiritual Brain, I confronted an astonishing fact: The secular materialist would accept any materialist premise, no matter how implausible, to support his view. In fact, I sometimes ask, is there any proposition fronted in the name of, say, Darwinism (as I did here, that you regard as absurd? I often get blank looks or protests that Darwinism is science and there are no such propositions, and an immediate change of subject. Well, when we hear that, at least we know who we are dealing with.

The Christian/theist labours under no such disability. He can accept a materialist explanation when it fits the facts, but not otherwise. But by acting this way, he becomes – in the eyes of the secular atheist – untrustworthy. He can’t be relied on to just shout the party line.

The upshot is that, the Christian risks more, speaking out, and is far more responsible for the need to have intelligent ideas. It’s much safer for Christians to bury themselves in fluffy Christian books and sweat off the flab in Christian weight loss programs, and little by little accommodate themselves to the reigning orthodoxy. After a couple of decades, they don’t even know.

So basically, I understand her to say that the the “skeptics” are actually so committed to the presupposition of naturalism that they are aggressive and close-minded. Their materialism is functioning as a sort of fundamentalism, much like you would find with Islamic radicals. A Christian can look at some new phenomenon in nature and ask the question: is it explained by materialism or is an intelligence required? But the materialist has to presume the answer before looking at the evidence – so they are close-minded to evidence, because of their non-scientific philosophy of materialism.

There are two ways to have a discussion about nature. You can ask a question and then compare evidence for various hypotheses. That’s the non-fundamentalist approach. That’s the approach used by Christians. The naturalist approach is to not allow questions to be asked and to attack the character of the person asking the question. That’s the fundamentalist approach.

And that’s where the fear and intimidation comes in. Who wants to debate with someone who is not open to having their religious pre-supposition validated against the evidence? You’re just going to get fired, censored, arrested or worse. That’s the way it is with fundamentalists like naturalist extremists and Islamic extremists. All kinds of nastiness to others is possible when you are a true believer. Denyse’s point is that the intimidation drives theists to avoid these discussions, and that leads to their decision to just focus on other things like careers and weight loss and fluff.

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