Sunday, December 30, 2007

Arnie Overload

I missed posting about Arnies one-year-with-Abbie anniversary (it was December 2nd). Not because I forgot, but because I wanted to post cute puppy pics to go along with the post... And Arnie chewed through my camera-->computer cord.

Arnie chews everything.

Everything.

So I tried to get a new camera cord, and every one I tried *looked* right, but didnt fit right, so I finally just got a card reader. Instead of uploading hundreds of Arnie Puppy pics, I just added a dozen or so in a slide-show. Enjoy! And go adopt a puppy.

Taking Arnie home last year was one of the best decisions Ive ever made.



Plz note: Darwins Pit Bull comes equipped with lazrs, though they need to be recharged often.

Its their paradigm shift and they'll cry if they want to

Considering the ID Creationism movement is made up entirely of white, aging, fundamentalist Christian men, the sheer number of temper-tantrums we have witnessed in 2007 is jaw-dropping. While us hoity-toity Ivory Tower scientists were busy doing research, it appears Creationists were only willing to expend energy wallowing on the ground, pounding their fists, and screaming until they turned blue.


For instance, I finally got back from vacation, and since in science no vacation goes unpunished, Ive spent the past couple of days in the lab catching up. So once again, I missed a fun Dembski temper tantrum, and you all missed out on some details that would have made the temper tantrum all the more enjoyable:

A few posters were wondering what Peter Irons had to do with any of this-- Why the hell is Irons emailing Big Billy about 'Design of Life' and 'Inner Life of a Cell'?

Thats my doing. I had seen Peters work on Pharyngula before, and thought he would be an excellent contact for Harvard/XVIVO. I mean, you know Harvard Law doesnt think it needs help with anything, but you also know that Average Joes have no idea what Professional Creationists are like, and what they are capable of. Something that may appear to be innocent, turns out to be malicious. And, there is a lot about Dembski they wouldnt know unless they were one of us.

Peter (and Afarensis!) is the one that found Dembskis trail of droppings in the 'Design of Life'. So, after I made my post on the topic December 24th, Peter sent Dembski an email pointing to my blog. Considering the fact that Dembski doesnt read his own blog, I dont expect him to read mine to see my posts about him. Thus, Peters email was a courtesy to Dembski. Now that Dembski is aware of our findings, he can refute them right?

Wrong.

Enter his "LEEEEEEEAAAAAAVE MEEE ALOOOOOOOONE!!!!!!!! SQUEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!" email to Peter.

Several weeks earlier, Dembski was also involved in an email conversation with John Kwok. Dembski didnt appear to be annoyed or bothered in his emails at all (though AtBCers take note-- even in private emails, Dembski writes "BUY MY BOOK"). After the Amazon escapade, John started teasing Dembski about buying him a camera lens as an apology/Christmas present.

Instead of ignoring those emails, or marking them as junk, Dembski who had no problem conversing with John a month ago suddenly needed to scream "LEEEEEEEAAAAAAVE MEEE ALOOOOOOOONE!!!!!!!! SQUEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!"

John got the same email as Peter. But dont forget, Billy D was the one who posted the home phone numbers and addresses of some people at Baylor and encouraged everyone at UD to send them a message.

"LEEEEEEEAAAAAAVE MEEE ALOOOOOOOONE!!!!!!!! SQUEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!"

But Dembski isnt the only baby throwing fits. John West brought out the "War on Christmas" dead horse to address the 'Inner Life' scandal.

Never mind the whole thing happened in September, "EVILUTIONISTS HATE BABY JESUS SQUEEEEEEE!!!" He also found it necessary to replace "Abigail" with "DARWINISTS" to rile up the other Creationist babies, and of course DARWINISTS=NAZIS... "DARWINISTS!!! DARWINISTS!!!! NAZIS!!!! SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!" as he franticly looks for 'Greg'.

Guillermo Gonzalez
and Nathaniel Abraham were caterwauling because their Creationism rendered them impotent: "GIMME GIMME GIMME!!!! MINE MINE MINE!!! MIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINE!!!!"

And then theres Mikey Behe. I thought I was special for getting a "YOURE MEEEEEEEEEAN!! YOURE SO MEAAAAAAAAN! MOMMIE!!! SQUEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!" when in fact, months earlier he had done the exact same thing to David Levine. Ive still got Levine one-upped, though, as Behe didnt tell him to go kill himself (you want your children to have Behe for a teacher, dont ya? Telling students to go kill themselves?).

Banner year for ID.

Its their paradigm shift and theyll cry if they want to.
CRYYYYYYYYYY if they want to.
CRYYYYYYYYYYYYYY if they want to.
You would cry too if you sucked at life too!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Discovery Institute, Dembski, Copyright, and 'Design of Life'

*squints eyes shut*

*rubs temples*

*keyboard to forehead*

So… You know all that stuff Dembski said in his notpology a while back? You know, where Dembski said he was really, really sorry for using a manipulated version of XVIVO/Harvards animation titled 'The Inner Life of a Cell’, but he didn’t do anything wrong?

Back in September of 2006 I announced at my blog UncommonDescent that a "breathtaking video" titled "The Inner Life of Cell" had just come out... ...Moreover, at the time, the video did not have a voiceover explaining the biology of what was being shown... most simply have some background music that do not explain the relevant biology... I downloaded from the Internet a version of the video with a voiceover describing the relevant biology...the version I used omitted the opening credits (a fact about which I became aware only in the last few days)...
Remember how John West at the Discovery Institute said they didn’t know nuthin about anything, they were being persecuted by Darwinists?
Some have even claimed (as usual, without an iota of evidence) that Discovery Institute supports the disregard of copyright laws or even had something to do with Dr. Dembski's usage of the animation in question. (Wrong on both counts.)
*squints eyes closed again*

Yeah… They were lying.

Peter Irons and Afarensis teamed together and discovered things in ‘Design of Life’ only a Master would look for or notice:

Footnote from Chapter 6:

Now, there is nothing wrong with them referencing XVIVO’s animation. Nothing weird about that. Whats interesting is the ‘last accessed’ date:

January 25, 2007.

The footnote is to the original Harvard website, not YouTube. The longer animation, with the original narration, with the original title/opening credits/closing credits/copyright.

January 25, 2007.

But Dembski didn’t know nuthin November 26, 2007. He sure didn’t know there was an original narration or no opinin credits! He just thought it was nifty and found it on the intrawebz!

January 25, 2007

Dembski knew at the time of his presentation at OU (September 17, 2007) that he was NOT allowed to use Harvards animation, but he did it anyway and lied about it when he got caught.


But theres more. You remember this coincidence? This figure?

The caption refers you to Footnote #4:

"As seen" at a web-article about 'Inner Life of a Cell.' Figure 8.1 was SUPPOSED to be a still from ‘Inner Life’. Not a funny coincidence, it was supposed to be ‘Inner Life’. But while they changed the actual figure, the stupid bastards didn’t change the footnote.

*keyboard to forehead again*

To quote Peter:

  1. Removing the XVIVO still from the book (but forgetting to remove the incriminating footnote) indicates that Dembski knew a) that he didn't have permission to use any portion of the video, and b) that Harvard and/or XVIVO would have grounds for copyright infringement if a still from the video appeared in the book.
  2. Nonetheless, knowing this (as he must have before Sept. 2007), Dembski went ahead and showed the over-dubbed XVIVO video at his OU talk on Sept. 17, probably assuming that nobody in the audience would know that it was a doctored version of the video. Over-dubbed or not, the video was still protected by copyright, and Dembski did not have permission to use it, which he obviously knew by then. Claiming (as he did on UD on Nov. 26 and 27, after you exposed him on ERV on Sept. 20) that he simply "found" the doctored version on the Internet, does not excuse his knowing violation of copyright.
  3. All the other evidence you showed on ERV (stripping the opening credits, projecting a new title of "The Cell as an Automated City," etc.) indicate that Dembski knew he was using the XVIVO video without permission.
  4. Is the latest footnote snafu a big deal? Not as big as the OU use of the doctored video. But it shows, IMO, that Dembski knew well before his OU talk, while DOL was still in production, that using a still from the XVIVO video would violate copyright. However, he failed to erase his fingerprints (the tell-tale footnote on p. 299) from the scene of the attempted crime.
  5. This footnote snafu is just further evidence of Dembski's cover-up of his serious ethical problems in appropriating other people's work for his own purposes (and profit). Rubbing his nose in it seems perfectly justified.

Dembski is a lying sac of Creationist Crap. Pretend to act shocked.

But lets not forget the organization supporting Dembski and ‘Design of Life’. John West at the Discovery Institute wants us to believe that the DI ‘Don’t know nuthin’ about Dembski’s obsession with ‘Inner Life of a Cell.’ Even though everyone at the DI has written GLOWING reviews of ‘Design’, and they all no doubt received review copies, as well as pre-print copies, and drafts, and two DI senior fellows wrote ‘Design’—Dembski and Wells (wheres Behe?), they expect all of us to believe that the DI knew nuthin of Dembski/Wells having some ‘copyright issues’ with Harvard trying to get a pic for ‘Inner Life’.

Im sure Dembski/Wells kept it to themselves that the Evil Darwinists in their Ivory Towers at Harvard wouldn’t let them use a dippy little picture.

Im sure none of them flipped by the Harvard picture in a pre-print version and said 'WOW! We got Harvard to give us the copyright to use this pic??' Lawyers wouldnt think of such things.


John West—You all are the IDiots that tried to steal Harvards work and were too incompetent to cover your own tracks. *We* aren’t the stupid ones. *We* don’t believe you knew nuthin.






* Before anyone posts any crap about ‘IZ CRIZMAS Y R U POSTIN?’, my family isn’t Christian, but Dembski wanted to make sure this years Christmas present got to everyone on time.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

In the search for truth, DE

While I was driving home on Kitzmas, you all were having fun without me-- Crashing Dembskis party at Amazon.com.

Well fine. I see how it is. Im not even going to invite you all to read the fun Im having with Dear Don over at Amazon:

Regarding my comments on physics. I am not a physicists but I am interested in its implications. I am sure that my take on it is controversial but I think some heavyweights in the field would agree. I suggest that information is the unifying element of physics and biology--the quantum and codon are fundamental units of organization of information that require a sufficient cause.
Uh huh. Thats MY tard-mine! YOU ALL ARENT INVITED!

...

Aww, dont give me those puppy dog eyes! Awwwwww! *sigh* FINE! But I still get dibs on his comments about the evolution of the immune system.

Dons problem is a problem all Creationists have. They dont know how to use PubMed. Not that that fact will stop them from talking about 'scientific research'. Dons 'scientific research' was so messed up in his presentation, I couldnt figure out what the hell he was talking about at the time, but now I get it. Dons reference:
Homology domains identified within shark RAG I prompted sequence comparison analyses that suggested similarity of the RAG I and II genes, respectively, to the integrase family genes and integration host factor genes of the bacterial site-specific recombination system. Thus, the apparent explosive evolution (or "big bang") of the ancestral immune system may have been initiated by a transfer of microbial site-specific recombinases.
Summary-- RAG I and RAG II, really important genes in our immune system only have sequence homology to genes in bacteria! How the heck did bacteria genes get into sharks a long time ago?? What? Oh now how the hell are Evilutionists going to explain THAT dosey? Arent Evilutionists stupid! Common design! Common design! Common design! WHOOOOOO!

No.

That publication was from 1996. In 1996, this hypothesis was the best the researchers could do with the information they had. Luckily, science moves forward. We get better at the game as we go along:

RAG1 Core and V(D)J Recombination Signal Sequences Were Derived from Transib Transposons

PLOS Translation

I thought Don was confusing bacteria and retroviruses because he was a Creationist that couldnt differentiate between those two 'bug kinds'. Turns out he really meant bacteria, he just didnt know that we're taught, you know, 'modern' science in class. Not, like, decade old putative hypotheses in peoples discussion sections. Cause, scientists did not stop at 'horizontal gene transfer from a bacteria into a gamete... eeehh....' or 'gawd did it.' They kept looking for better answers, and found it.

My response to Don at Amazon:
Viruses/transposable elements/etc and Creationism theoretically have a lot in common. They both, theoretically, have been misunderstood and mischaracterized by the Scientific Establishment. 10 years ago, viruses were seen as a freak-show of 'life', not at all connected to The Tree of Life, and it was heresy to suggest they were anything but degenerated bits of genome and chemicals. 10 years ago, Behe, Dembski, Wells, were 'maverick scientists' 'taking on the establishment' and 'making a case for a paradigm shift in biology'.

In the past ten years, viral paradigm shifters have been in their labs, churning out paper after paper after paper demonstrating the importance of viruses in the evolution of life on earth, to the degree that it is now an 'industry standard' in the viral world (and other fields), and is creeping into textbooks and graduate/undergraduate courses (ie the new edition of 'Origin and Evolution of Viruses' coming out soon). In another 10 years, it might be all the way down to high school texts.

In the past ten years, intelligent design creationist paradigm shifters have been busy writing news releases, filing lawsuits, screaming 'DISCRIMINATION!!!', designing web pages, writing on their blogs, attacking/threatening students, writing textbooks to push on children, giving presentations to local churches for thousands of $$$, making flash animations of federal judges farting, getting fired from their teaching positions, inciting costly lawsuits in numerous school districts, and staying merrily oblivious to modern research (and making sure their $$$ flock are blissfully unaware of this research as well).

Oh, I believe the 2005 paper was part of the stack presented to Behe at Dover:
In particular, Behe criticizes a 1994 Proceedings of the National Academy of Science paper advancing the hypothesis that the RAG system evolved by lateral transfer of a prokaryotic transposon13, an idea initially suggested in a 1979 paper14 and expanded in 1992 (ref. 15). Behe ridicules the idea as a "jump in the box of Calvin and Hobbes,"2 with reference to the comic strip in which a child and his stuffed tiger imaginary friend use a large cardboard box for fantasy trips and amazing physical transformations.

The timing for the criticism could not have been worse, as soon after publication of Darwin's Black Box, solid evidence for the transposon hypothesis began accumulating with the demonstration of similarities between the variable-diversity-joining recombination and transposition mechanisms16 and also between shark RAG1 and certain bacterial integrases17. Since then, a steady stream of findings has continued to add more substance to the model, as RAG proteins have been shown to be capable of catalyzing transposition reactions, first in vitro18, 19 and then in vivo20, 21, 22, and to have even closer structural and mechanistic similarities with specific transposases23. Finally, in 2005, the original key prediction of the transposon hypothesis was fulfilled with the identification of a large invertebrate transposon family bearing both recombination signal sequence–like integration sequences and a RAG1 homolog24. When faced with that evidence during an exchange on the internet, Behe simply 'shrugged' and said that evidence was not sufficient, asking instead for an infinitely detailed, step-by-step mutation account (including population sizes, relevant selective pressures and so on) for the events leading to the appearance of the adaptive immune system (http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/06/behes_meaningle.html).

*shrug*

Friday, December 21, 2007

WATERLOOOOOOOO!

I was on the road* for the Kitzmas Holiday yesterday, but I still managed to celebrate-- While traveling along The Blessed Highway, I received a sign from God:

WATERLOOOOOOOO!!!!!!






* Im now at Home home, with all of its dial-up-internet glory. How the hell did we survive the 1990's?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Question about Anti-Science and ERVs

I recently stumbled across another anti-science blog. Normally Id just ignore it (unless its a tard-mine, like UD), but this one figured out how to keep my attention: Theyre trying to combine ERVs, epigenetics, and anti-evolution.

Theyre The Anti-ERV.

And though Im not linking to them until I can get a real post up, Ive got to wonder out loud, out of exasperation: Why do anti-science people (Deniers, Creationists) really REALLY want endogenous retroviruses to be the source of exogenous retroviruses?

I dont get it.

I kinda get it with the Deniers-- they want people to think HIV is not an STD/blood-born pathogen. But whats up with the Creationists? Are they just trying to figure out a way to deny common descent? "OMG ERVS R FRONT LOADED PUNISHMENT FOR TEH FALL!! THEY R LIKE MINES! SIN=RETROVIRUS!"?

*sigh*

Musical Evilutionists

Two hysterical musical parodies of ID Creationists--

One old, dedicated to Behe from Torbjörn Larsson:

BEHE:
I cut down facts. I Gish and gallop.
I like to press wild fallacies.
I put on scientist's clothing
And hang around in labs.

MOUNTIES:
He cuts down facts. He Gish and gallop.
He likes to press wild fallacies.
He puts on scientist's clothing
And hangs around in labs?!

He's a creationist, and he's okay.
He lies all night and he lies all day.


One new, dedicated to Dembski from Amadan:
I claim that Dover came about because the judge was activist
I dazzle congregations with my jargon that's distractivist
I never answer awkward questions even if you do insist
I really am the model of a c-design-proponentsist

He never answers awkward questions even if you do insist
He really is the model of a c-design-proponentsist

Spew-worthy intro:
[Note: Malicious allegations have been made that this work somehow plagiarises something by W.S. Gilbert. Nothing could be further from the truth and I emphatically state that I have nothing to apologise for. And I'm really sorry. Comments on this subject are now closed.]
Holy mother of god.

ROFL!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Lab Lesson of the Day: Read the god damned recipe

Guys, Im never going to finish grad school.

Stupid Mistake #1
-- Not checking the pH of my solutions.
Stupid Mistake #2-- Not checking for azide in commercial reagents.
Stupid Mistake #3-- Forgetting to put an ingredient in a master mix.

For the past week Ive been trying to optimize this RT assay. I take a few microliters of a viral stock, gently blow up all of the viruses, and measure the reverse transcriptase activity. Its an old, old protocol, should be a matter of copying the recipe someone put in a publication, ploping in my virus, and YAY! RESULTS! Except dot-blots are supposed to look like this:
My dot-blots looked like this:
Yeah... so, Bossman was like "You need to check your reaction buffer. Something is wrong in your master mix." Me "NO WAY! Its right! Its got to be something else!" Bossman "Check your buffers."

*5 minutes later*

Me "Yeah... I didnt add EGTA..."

Reverse transcriptase needs Mg2+ to work. BUT you need the charge of the reaction solution to not be too positive, as that will prevent the reaction product, DNA-RNA hybrids, from binding to a special membrane. EGTA 'neutralizes' Ca2+ ions in the reaction, but leaves the MG2+ ions alone! Super! But not adding it means the reaction buffer blocked the DNA-RNA from binding, so I got these weird twisty halo thingies...

It was a really stupid thing to overlook.

*face palm*

Dembski, Copyright, and 'Design of Life'

Ive been itching to get my hands on a copy of Billy 'One book a decade' Dembskis new book, 'Design of Life', just to see how many of my predictions came true. Problem is, it doesnt appear anyone has this book, except for DI sycophants and a few of the Usual Suspects. Amazon doesnt have it in stock, Barnes and Noble doesnt even have it listed, local libraries have no idea what Im talking about.

But its okay. I have the best readers on the internet, and someone sent me the answer to exactly what I was really wondering:

1. 'Someone' with the DI contacted Harvard and asked for a copy of 'Inner Life'. Harvard said no. Dembski used a butchered copy of it in his presentations anyway.

2. 'Someone' with the DI contacted Harvard and asked to use stills from 'Inner Life' in a 'publication'. Harvard said no. Would DI have the balls to use them anyway? Is the publication 'Design'?
**Spoiler** No. :(

But there are similarities between a page in 'Design', and Dembskis use of Harvards animation which clearly show where stills from Harvards animation were slotted for use, and clearly shows that Dembski knew prior to his presentation at OU that Harvard wanted nothing to do with the Discovery Institute but Dembski used their animation anyway.

Lets compare a page from 'Design' with a still from Dembskis OU presentation- just prior to Harvards animation:

















And then lets zoom in on the picture in 'Design':
























Caption: Figure 8.1 This image, from a computer animation in Unlocking the Mystery of Life (www.illustramedia.com), illustrates information processing inside the cell (i.e., the transcription of DNA into mRNA). The animation shows why it is entirely appropriate to compare the cell with an automated city.

Dembskis new title for 'Inner Life of a Cell'? 'The Cell as an Automated City.'

Its obvious to even the most casual observer that 'Design of Life' is the publication DI wanted to use stills from Harvards animation in, but they acknowledged Harvards unwillingness to contribute to Creationism and did not use the stills.

Unless Figure 8.1 was changed within the past month, Dembski knew at the time of his presentation at OU Harvard wanted nothing to do with Creationism, but subsequently played dumb "Aw gosh golly I just found it on the intranets and thought it was neato! I didnt mean nuthin by it!"

This reminds me of my very first encounter with a Creationist. His name was Brad Harrub. Some low-level con artist, got snukered by an April Fools joke in Discover magazine, had this fishing reel he presented as part of his 'Evidences of Creation!'

When it was pointed out to him that the 'fossil fishing reel' was an obvious fraud (you could see the saw marks in the rock, for petes sake), he removed all references to the reel in his online/print media. Yet when I attended a presentation of his a year and a half later, he presented the 'fossil fishing reel' as EVIDENCES OF CREATION!

So what happened? Print media can be traced. If DI had used stills from Harvards animation in print, they would have been royally screwed. So they used 'Inner Life' in presentations instead. Harrub presented information he knew to be fraudulent in his presentation. Who attends these presentations? Average Joe Creationists that have no idea the material is stolen/fraudulent. Dembski was so confident that I would never get video proof of him using the animation, he pretended it never happened for two months.

Professional Creationists are snake-oil salesmen and con artists. They know they are lying, they know they are stealing, they just think theyre 'too good' to get caught.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

ERVs = Bible Code

This new entry to the Index of Creationist Claims about ERVs comes to us via Uncommon Descent commenter JoeG, who has 'forgotten more about ERVs than youll ever know'*:

Fact 1- A virus can be manufactured just by matching a sequence

Fact 2- That we think we see ERVs in genomes (or fragments of ERVs) means that there is a sequence match.

Take those two facts together and it is easy to see one can create a virus even if there was no virus originally.
See? ERVs are just like the Bible Code for evilutionists! You can make a genome say anything you want! Know a retrovirus sequence? Just by chance, if you match a retrovirus sequence with a human sequence, youll think you see ERVs there! But they arent ERVs-- Theyre... something else (dont ask him what).
In the end, pertaing to ERVs, all you have is that “they look like ERVs to me”. If that passes for science then “It looks designed” also passes.
Unfortunately, thats not how bioinformatics works (intro genetics must be part of that ERV stuff that JoeG has already forgotten). If Bible-Code bioinformatics were possible, the entire field would be useless-- you couldnt separate the wheat from the chaff. The fact of the matter is, bioinformatics, especially regarding ERVs, is precise. Different families of retroviruses leave distinct footprints in our genome. It is not magic.

And, retroviruses becoming endogenous entities is not a magical occurrence that only happened long ago in a galaxy far far away-- we can study retroviruses in other organisms that are exogenous and endogenous. We have genetically modified mice that lack specific ERVs so we can use them as controls in ERV activation experiments.

Its not magic.

JoeG touches on several Creationist Claims Ive already discussed, but I wanted to highlight this claim because it is a fun bit of irony. Radical Christians using the Bible Code to predict who the Antichrist will be and when the Apocalypse will happen is just superduper! But misunderstanding bioinformatics and virology to say evilutionists make genomes 'say anything they want' is UNACCEPTABLE! lol.




* Gratuitous Arrogant Creationist Claim

Friday, December 14, 2007

Dembski fails ID test

Everyone, lets play a quick game of "Answer like a Creationist"!!!

Q: Who is William Dembski?
A: The worlds leading biologist, and proponent of Intelligent Design.

Q: What is Intelligent Design?
A: A scientific theory that states the Universe is Designed. Research from all fields of science supports ID Theory, and more scientists are rejecting Darwinism in favor of ID Theory every day.

Q: Is Intelligent Design religion?
A: "The Designer of intelligent design is, ultimately, the Christian God."

**BUUUUUUUUUUUUUUZZZ!!** WRONG! ID is NOT a religion! Everyone knows that! Who said that?? Some Darwinist?? Some Atheist scientist that hates Christmas and roller coasters and bunnies????

...

Oh, it was Billy D?

Oh.

Alright...



















(hat tip to NCSE)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

ERV-- Priestess of Apollo

Another one of my prophesies has come true:

Um, Billy, I haven’t read your book. I haven’t even seen a table of contents. And I bet a bottle of single malt scotch I can tell everyone exactly what you and Moonie-Man Wells wrote. Ahem:
...
  • Fossil record is incomplete. There should be transitional fossils, but there arent any.
...


BEHOLD!!!
Let's skip ahead to the discussion of transitional fossils:
What did paleontologists find? Many new fossils, to be sure. But what they didn't find were the numerous intermediates that, according to Darwin's theory, had once existed. Rather than plugging gaps in the fossil record, new fossils tended to create new gaps.
Oh, Snaps! Everytime we find one transitional fossil we create two gaps (okay, Heracles is a little gassy and is contributing to the poo, but he is the son of Zeus and he will recover and clean the stable).
Intelligent Design Creationists using a Young Earth Creationist Claim? No one could have seen such a thing coming.

FEAR MY POWERS AAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!


Creationists very bad ideas

Poor physicians and engineers :)

We're always making fun of them, as it appears as if a disproportionate number of individuals in those fields are Creationists. Oh its a funny joke for us, but if a Creationist Physician and a Creationist Engineer ever mated*, the results would be disastrous, as GilDodgen just demonstrated:

In the meantime, medical doctors should prescribe multiple antibiotics for all infections, since this will decrease the likelihood that infectious agents can develop resistance through stochastic processes.
Gil is a software engineer. He read Behes crappy book, and thought that a neat ID idea for not creating antibiotic resistant bacteria would be to trap bacteria at a minimum in a fitness landscape, kill off all the bacteria, and HURRAY! No drug resistant buggies!

Well, you can read lots of different takes on this issue:
Humble Monkey
Sandwalk
Respectful Insolence
Ian at Pandas Thumb

My take-- WORST IDEA EVER. E-V-E-R.

I dont blame Gil for this-- hes just some engineer dude and thinks he has a neat idea. It would be a neat idea, if brought up in conversation. But thats not what he did. He made a big arrogant post of this idea on William Dembskis blog. Why Dembski allows engineers to post medical advice on his blog, I fear we will never know. But Id just like to note that this is a neat idea for a non-biologist, but it rotted into another example of Arrogant Creationists telling everyone in the world how to do their jobs.

Gil, giving everyone lots of antibiotics is the worst idea EVER. Let me list a few reasons why.

1. Just like all viruses are not one 'Viral Kind' that got off of Noahs Ark, there was not one 'Bacterial Kind' that hitched a ride for forty days and nights either. 'Bacteria' is a huge group of organisms that we have only begun to study-- new kinds of sequencing, new places to sample, theyre still aliens on our planet. 'Bacteria' are not one organism that can be killed by any 'antibiotic.' Different antibiotics work in ways that might only be effective against certain bacteria. For instance, you can give a person infected with a gram-negative bacteria all of the penicillin in the world, and its not going to do anything but kill the GOOD bacteria in your body. Giving a patient antibiotics willy-nilly instead of the targeted approach we use right now is a terrible idea.

2. You are more bacteria than you are human. Sorry. Its creepy, I know, but nothing to be done about it. There are good bacteria in your body that you could not live without. Antibiotics kill them too. Prescribing a antibiotics like buckshot means there are fewer of the good-guys around to out-compete the bad guys to clear the bad-guys out completely. *sigh* Not that a Creationist would get 'niches' and 'competition.'

3. Humans do not exist in a void. When you take a drug, it is absorbed through your stomach/intestines/broken down in your liver/whatever. Depends on the drug. But that drug is in your poop and pee, just like everything else you eat and drink. Antibiotics, illegal drugs, prescription drugs-- you can find everything we take in sewage and rivers and lakes. If everyone started taking lots of antibiotics, alllllll those antibiotics are going to go out into the environment, and help breed future Super Bugs. Baaaaad idea.

4. Physicians arent retarded. Targeted, multi-antibiotic approaches are already in use. When needed. Not for every sinus infection that walks into the office. We've also been using multi-drugs for HIV, Behes pet virus, since it was technologically possible. We've given kids in Africa seven different kinds of drugs... and they still die. I really dont think Creationists understand what evolution can do...

5. Personal note: PRESCRIBING UNNECESSARY ANTIBIOTICS?? LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS OF ANTIBIOTICS???? Gil is obviously not one of 'us'. 'Us'. Those side effects you see listed on that handout you get when you fill an antibiotic prescription? They dont make those up-- people get those side effects. Some of us get the bad ones. I happen to be one of those people. Im not allergic, no anaphylactic shock or anything, I just have had bad reactions to every antibiotic I have ever taken. Some of you might remember I got sick earlier this year. I didnt tell you all the whole story, as it really shook me up, and I had some anxiety issues after one particularly bad day... One dose of antibiotics that were stronger than necessary (they thought it might be MRSA) led to the most medically traumatic experience of my entire life. And Gil thinks EVERYBODY should get lots of super strong antibiotics so we dont get drug resistant bacteria. Angry......


Thankfully, Gil is an engineer and incapable of carrying out his great ID plan. Alas, Gil is still an Arrogant Creationist.








* Dont worry. I have yet to see two upper-middle-class white Fundamentalist Christian men mate with one another and produce a viable offspring. But theyre sure tryin...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

David Mills: Not squid food yet!

The Vomit Comet has landed! The plane didnt crash, David is not being pilfered by squid, no need to fight off the Biblo-vultures squawing "DAVID BELIEVES IN GOD NOW! GOD NOW SQUAAAAWK!"

But just in case some of you didnt believe me when I said David has lost his mind, let me tell you this: HE WANTS TO DO IT AGAIN!!

Youre nuts, David!! NUTS!! ROFL!!!

Monday, December 10, 2007

ICE STORM 2007!!!!!!

Okaaaay..... I think you all took the prayer thing one step too far yesterday.... OK is an ice-hell right now! Like, all the trees in my neighborhood are down, or split in two. Im fairly certain Im going to lose power tonight when this stuff re-freezes, and whatever is still up falls over.

I was just out with Arnie, and I heard a **CRAAAAAAAAAACK** **electrical noises**.

eeeee...

Ians got some pictures up (Arnie chewed up my camera transfer cord...).

And Ians right-- the weather men are going nuts with their 'ICE STORM 2007!!!' graphics. Its kinda cute :P

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Prayer Request

Oh the Biblotarians are right. Atheists, in our time of need, turn to The Lord for help. So here in writing for everyone to see, is my Lady Hope story.

Tomorrow, we have our last test of the semester. Its not that hard of stuff, I just want one more day to study. So Im going to ask my faithful readers to say a prayer with me:

Dear Baby Jesus (its Christmas time, so pray to Baby Jesus). Dear Baby Jesus-- please let us get enough sleet and ice for school to be canceled tomorrow. ERV wants/needs one more day to study before her final. Granted, if school is canceled, shes probably going to sleep until 11, and then watch Oprah, and probably play on the internet the rest of the afternoon, and only start studying at 8 pm Monday night, but still. You owe her. The apartment has smelled like wet dog all afternoon. Amen.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

EXPELLED: For an Amazon.com review??

Wow. So, Billy Dembski is having a bit of a seizure over at Uncommon Descent right now. Um… ummmm… I feel stupid even writing this.

Um, Dembski is freaking out... because someone wrote a negative review of 'Design of Life’ at Amazon.com.

Seriously.

John Kwok, one of Amazons Top 50 reviewers, had the audacity to call Creationist Crap crap, and Dembski would have none of it. He even hauled out the Prize Pig argument I got from slack-jawed yokles that refused to believe Behe screwed up: “OMFG MAH BOOK IS THE GUD U SO DIDN’T READ IT!”

Um, Billy, I haven’t read your book. I haven’t even seen a table of contents. And I bet a bottle of single malt scotch I can tell everyone exactly what you and Moonie-Man Wells wrote. Ahem:

  • Quote mines. Lots and lots of quote mines. More from Dawkins, the better. Scientists know evilution is wrong, but wont admit it.
  • Pubjacks. Lots and lots of pubjacks.
  • The word ‘Darwinists’ is used ~1,000 times.
  • Fossil record is incomplete. There should be transitional fossils, but there arent any.
  • Genetics supports design
  • Junk DNA
  • Pictures that were originally supposed to be from ‘The Inner Life of a Cell’, but Harvard told them no.
  • The word ‘paradigm’ is used ~25 times.
  • Lots of stuff about Materialism being evil—Certainly something about Nazis, including pictures from concentration camps.
  • No testable predictions from ID Creationism.
Time will tell if my predictions are true, however, lets play Dembskis game. Fine, Kwok didn’t read ‘Design.’ What about his review was inaccurate? Inappropriate? Warranted Billy D sending his sycophants over to Amazon to demand Kwoks review be taken down? Yeah, Kwoks review has been taken down. The only ones left are by Casey and other DI tools (more on that in a moment). Like I told Dembski at OU, “So much for both sides.”

What a pathetic, insecure, wet rat.

Who is he to start bitching about Amazon reviews anyway? Seriously, did Dembski sustain a major brain injury as a child that prevents him from retaining memories? Lets get in the Tardis again, but lets just go back to 2003:
1.0 out of 5 stars Who Are They Kidding?, December 22, 2003
By A Customer
Prometheus Press is one of the most militantly atheistic and ideologically driven presses around. And yet it purports that the following description of the book represents an unbiased assessment of Perakh's work: "This thoughtful and incisive critique from a veteran scientist genuinely concerned about the integrity of the scientific enterprise wastes no diplomacy on those who would see its purpose twisted to ideological ends." If there are ideological ends on the intelligent design side, there are no less ideological ends on the anti-design side, for which Perakh has now become a champion. Perakh's analyses of Behe, Johnson, and Dembski are in each instance defective. If simply by reading Perakh, you think he has decisively demolished intelligent design, you need to read the primary literature. Especially recommended here are John Campbell and Steve Meyer's _Darwinism, Design, and Public Education_ as well as Dembski's _The Design Revolution_, which answers many of Perakh's concerns.
Yes, that ‘anonymous’ review which was basically an ad for Dembskis book, was written by… Dembski. And he posted it a few places, including on ‘Creationism's Trojan Horse’, under various names. Wow! That’s some book review! Covers multiple books! So much for ‘BUT U DIDN’T RED MAH BUK!’ as a defense.

I was also rather interested to find what reviews of ‘Design’ Dembski approves of. One was written by Donald Ewert. Yes, the same Ewert that won my ‘Crappiest Creationist Presentation EVAH!’ award. Im sorry, what *exactly* in Ewerts review demonstrates that Ewert read ‘Design’? Its just a coagulation of ID sound bites: ‘paradigm shift’ ‘complex and intricate mechanisms’ ‘methodological materialism’ ‘quantum mechanics’ blah blah blaaaaah **VOMIT**

Dembski is such a big man. Big and strong. When surrounded by people telling him how big and strong he is.

Gross.

John Kwoks review—just in case it doesn’t get put back up:
On December 20, 2005 Federal Judge John E. Jones, a Republican jurist appointed by President George W. Bush rendered this decision:

"The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board's ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents."

"Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs' scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator."

"To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions."

"The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy."

"With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom."

"Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources."

Two years have elapsed since Judge Jones issued this historic verdict. A decision which was, without question, a staggering blow to both the Discovery Institute's Intelligent Design advocates, and to many others, who, regrettably, still harbor ample, rather disingenuous, pretensions to asserting the scientific validity of an idea that was soundly rejected once before, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and deserves its widespread current repudiation by modern scientists, especially from those who are professional evolutionary biologists (If you don't believe my claims, then please read the many ludicrous, often hysterical, comments posted by Intelligent Design advocates (who truly deserve British paleontologist Richard Fortey's perjorative nickname, IDiot) and other creationists at the Amazon.com product page for Dr. Michael Behe's "The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits to Darwinism", often relying upon vituperative attacks on supporters of evolution, and in, general, on reason itself.). However, the conservative Discovery Institute, and its fellow intellectual travelers in the Intelligent Design and creationist movements are in a total state of denial, still refusing to admit their devastating debacle at the hands of a Republican Federal jurist. The most recent example of the Discovery Institute's ongoing delusional state is this very textbook co-authored by Discovery Institute Senior Fellows William A. Dembski and Jonathan Wells, who, in spite of their impressive academic credentials, have not published anything that would be regarded as valid mainstream science by their peers in the scientific community for nearly a decade and a half. Their book is the widely anticipated sequel to the earlier Intelligent Design creationist textbook "Of Pandas and People", whose "evolutionary" history was one of the important pieces of evidence used by plaintiff attorneys against both the Dover Area School District and Intelligent Design advocates during the 2005 Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District trial. It can also be seen - and I believe quite correctly - as the Discovery Institute's last ditch effort at grasping at intellectual straws, by urging high school educators to "Teach the Controversy" - which this textbook emphasizes with respect to contemporary evolutionary theory - instead of trying to explain why Intelligent Design deserves ample, serious consideration as a valid alternative in attempting to explain the origins, history and current complexity of Planet Earth's biodiversity. Indeed, it should be regarded as a valiant, yet hopelessly inane, effort by two Fundamentalist Protestant Christian-oriented "scholars" who remain quite determined - almost to the point of religious fanaticism as seen from the likes of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda brethren - to seeing their narrow, tormented version of a Christian origin myth taught alongside genuine science in North American science classrooms and elsewhere around the globe.

This new textbook doesn't even try to defend Intelligent Design's pretense of being a better alternative to contemporary evolutionary theory in discussing the origins and history of life on Planet Earth. Nor does it demonstrate that it is valid science, but instead, stresses the current "controversies" with respect to our understanding of evolutionary biology, with topics ranging from those pertaining to the fossil record to evolutionary developmental biology; the latter known popularly as "evo-devo". Indeed, in private e-mail correspondence with both Dembski and Behe, I have received no definitive statements from either, indicating that Intelligent Design is truly, a compelling, scientifically more valid, alternative than contemporary evolutionary theory in explaining the origins and history of life on Planet Earth. Instead, the best response I received from them was this, quoting from Dembski, " Intelligent Design raises questions". It does indeed, but not those that he alludes to in his prolific writing, simply because he, Wells, Behe, Minnich, Gonzalez, and their fellow Intelligent Design advocates, have had more than fifteen years to make their case within the mainstream scientific community, and have failed miserably, not just once, but again and again (Much to my amazement, Philip Johnson, the spiritual "godfather" of the Intelligent Design "movement", has conceded recently that Intelligent Design is not yet a valid scientific theory.). I asked both Dembski and Behe these questions: "Where are Intelligent Design's testable hypotheses? Where are the productive scientific research programs inspired by Intelligent Design? Where are Intelligent Design's peer-reviewed scientific papers published in such eminent mainstream scientific journals such as Nature, Science, Paleobiology, Cladistics, Journal of Theoretical Biology, Evolution, American Naturalist, among others?" The replies I received were only deafening silence from both. So much for Intelligent Design's pretensions for being a valid scientific theory, right?

Dembski tries to make a persuasive case on behalf of Intelligent Design, using the same probabilistic models he developed for his "No Free Lunch" and "Explanatory Filter" concepts; the very models that have been harshly criticized by his former Ph. D. dissertation advisor at the University of Chicago, who is now a highly respected mathematician teaching at a prominent Canadian university (Incidentally, three times I have asked Dembski - who has a M. S. degree in statistics from the University of Illinois, Chicago - a basic statistics question which he couldn't answer, both twice, in person, after the 2002 American Museum of Natural History Intelligent Design debate, and, recently, in private e-mail correspondence: "How do you calculate the confidence limits for the Explanatory Filter?" Three times he hasn't provided me with any answer but a deafening, stony silence.). I wonder what the current president of the University of Chicago, distinguished mathematician Robert Zimmer - who is a prominent alumnus of my prestigious New York City public high school - thinks of Dembski's "research", especially when Zimmer has taught mathematics at the University of Chicago for decades, except for a relatively brief stint as the provost of Brown University (my undergraduate alma mater); it's quite possible that Zimmer served as a member of Dembski's doctoral dissertation committee in mathematics. Since Dembski's concepts are fundamentally, just metaphysical, pseudoscientific, religious nonsense, it seems that a more appropriate usage of his fine literary talents would be writing a textbook on Klingon Cosmology; a potentially lucrative suggestion that he has rejected (For reasons which I have noted elsewhere, here at Amazon.com, I believe that there is substantially more evidence in support of Klingon Cosmology than there is for Intelligent Design.).

Two years ago I attended an alumni gathering in the auditorium of my high school alma mater, New York City's prestigious Stuyvesant High School (Many regard Stuyvesant as America's premier high school devoted to the sciences, mathematics, and engineering. Its many prominent alumni include distinguished scientists, mathematicians, engineers and doctors, including four Nobel Prize-winning scientists and an economist; the most of any high school in the United States; with the notable exception of arch rival Bronx High School of Science's seven Nobel Prize-winning alumni in physics. Barely three percent pass of those taking the annual competitive, quite rigorous, entrance examination for the nearly 800 places available in the following year's freshman class; an acceptance rate that is substantially lower than gaining admission to Harvard University's undergraduate college.). Stuyvesant's current principal, Mr. Stanley Teitel, pledged that Intelligent Design would never be taught at Stuyvesant, as long as he served as its principal; a pledge made by Mr. Teitel during the Kitzmiller vs. Dover trial (Mr. Teitel has taught physics at Stuyvesant since the mid 1980s, and still teaches one course of senior-level physics to a class comprised of entering freshmen.). Why did Mr. Teitel make this pledge? The answer is obvious. Unlike Dembski, Wells, Behe, and their Discovery Institute colleagues, Mr. Teitel recognizes that Intelligent Design is unscientific.

In my Amazon.com review of British filmmaker Matthew Chapman's hilarious, yet profound, eyewitness account of the Kitzmiller vs. Dover trial, I concluded with these remarks, which, upon reflection, are an appropriate ending for my review of this latest example of mendacious intellectual pornography - which is how I regard Intelligent Design - being disseminated by the Discovery Institute:

"I concur with Ken Miller's observation that introducing Intelligent Design into science classrooms would be a `science stopper'. It would conflate most students' understanding of what exactly is the difference between religious faith and science, though I suppose that some truly gifted students, like those attending prominent American high schools such as Alexandria, Virginia's Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Tchnology, and New York City's Bronx High School of Science and Stuyvesant High School, might readily understand and appreciate these distinctions. And yet I am inclined to agree more with the harsh view articulated by distinguished British paleontologist Richard Fortey in his essay published in the January 30, 2007 issue of the British newspaper Telegraph, contending that it is an absolute waste of time arguing with Intelligent Design advocates, and that they ought to be dismissed as `IDiots'; by extension, so would be the teaching of Intelligent Design alongside evolution in a science classroom. I would rather see talented students from Thomas Jefferson, Bronx Science and Stuyvesant engage themselves fruitfully in genuine scientific research of the highest caliber, than in trying to understand the metaphysical, religious nonsense known as Intelligent Design and other flavors of creationism. I think, in hindsight, so would Charles Darwin."

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

'Darwin's Surprise'-- ERVs

Thank you to the ERV reader from Drake that forwarded me this article from The New Yorker:
Darwin's Surprise--Why are evolutionary biologists bringing back extinct deadly viruses?

I like this article. I swear. It starts out with a **rolleyes**, and sometimes he gets a bit alarmist or messes up a bit of the science, but the ending is just fantastic, so all errors are forgiven (after I correct a few, hehe!)

First, the **rolleyes**. He ruined a perfectly good introduction on retroviruses and endogenous retroviruses by using the cursed words:

Because they no longer seem to serve a purpose or cause harm, these remnants have often been referred to as “junk DNA.”
*sigh*

He redeems himself by stating that ERVs are not functional, but I would like to add to that-- the fact we have no functional ERVs is interesting in and of itself. Other mammals do, so why not us?

Im also a little annoyed at the author, as well as the scientists he interviewed, perpetuated the pop-culture myth that we 'brought an extinct virus back to life!' As I discussed earlier this year, they arent bringing 'a virus' back to life. They took all the similar ERV genes they could find, made a consensus sequence, and tried to make a functional virus. Its a Frankenstein virus, not a zombie virus :P And Ive read the papers... while this is certainly cool, the virus they constructed isnt exactly 'robust.' It hobbles along, even with the addition of genes from functional viruses (they added those in hopes it would help their lame virus run a bit faster, at least fast enough to do functional experiments on).

Im also annoyed with the idea that bringing these viruses 'back to life' might harm society. First of all, retroviruses are wusses. Polio? He can hang out in dirt, happy as a clam. But HIV in that same scenario would die at the thought of being outside in sewage. Retroviruses are wusses outside of their territory. It would take a series of mistakes and improbable events for a Frankenstein retrovirus to leave a laboratory, many many many more to cause any harm. But one of the researchers interviewed tried to stress an important point:
“I understand that the idea of bringing something dead back to life is fundamentally frightening,” he went on. “It’s a power that science has come to possess and it makes us queasy, and it should. But there are many viruses that are more dangerous than these—more infectious, far riskier to work with, and less potentially useful.’’
Frankenstein viruses have an obvious place in research-- study retroviruses we naturally conquered to figure out how to stop new ones (HIV-1). Did we evolve new restriction factors? Did we lose a receptor? What happened?

Then the author starts conflating viruses a bit. He hops from retroviruses (wussy, little risk in 'resurrection') to 'building' polio. That is unfair. As I said, polio is not a baby. It is easily spread, and humans did not evolve resistance to polio 'naturally' (ie there is no cellular restriction factor that shuts down polio). We just immunized people to put out its flame so it is no longer a threat. If a homemade polio gets out of the lab, I agree, that is trouble. But confounding helpful and safe (not just harmless, helpful and safe) resurrection with obviously harmful resurrection I find offensive. Im a mad scientist. Not an idiot.

However, the last few paragraphs of that article are just brilliant-- especially for an article directed towards non-biology readers. Love it. LUV! Some highlights:
In 1968, Robin Weiss, who is now a professor of viral oncology at University College London, found endogenous retroviruses in the embryos of healthy chickens. When he suggested that they were not only benign but might actually perform a critical function in placental development, molecular biologists laughed. “When I first submitted my results on a novel ‘endogenous’ envelope, suggesting the existence of an integrated retrovirus in normal embryo cells, the manuscript was roundly rejected,’’ Weiss wrote last year in the journal Retrovirology. “One reviewer pronounced that my interpretation was impossible.’’ Weiss, who is responsible for much of the basic knowledge about how the AIDS virus interacts with the human immune system, was not deterred. He was eager to learn whether the chicken retroviruses he had seen were recently acquired infections or inheritances that had been passed down through the centuries. He moved to the Pahang jungle of Malaysia and began living with a group of Orang Asli tribesmen. Red jungle fowl, an ancestor species of chickens, were plentiful there, and the tribe was skilled at trapping them. After collecting and testing both eggs and blood samples, Weiss was able to identify versions of the same viruses. Similar tests were soon carried out on other animals. The discovery helped mark the beginning of a new approach to biology. “If Charles Darwin reappeared today, he might be surprised to learn that humans are descended from viruses as well as from apes,” Weiss wrote.

...

Then, in the nineteen-sixties, Howard Temin, a virologist at the University of Wisconsin, began to question the “central dogma” of molecular biology, which stated that genetic instructions moved in a single direction, from the basic blueprints contained within our DNA to RNA, which translates those blueprints and uses them to build proteins. He suggested that the process could essentially run in the other direction: an RNA tumor virus could give rise to a DNA copy, which would then insert itself into the genetic material of a cell. Temin’s theory was dismissed, like most fundamental departures from conventional wisdom. But he never wavered. Finally, in 1970, he and David Baltimore, who was working in a separate lab, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, simultaneously discovered reverse transcriptase, the special enzyme that can do exactly what Temin predicted: make DNA from RNA.
Not once, but TWICE, virologists made a prediction, challenged a dogma, were laughed at, and used SCIENCE to figure out who/what was right.

No PR campaigns.

No church/state issues.

Just science.

Take notes, Discovery Institute.


...nothing provides more convincing evidence for the “theory” of evolution than the viruses contained within our DNA.
Yup! Thats what I say!


Darwin’s theory makes sense, though, only if humans share most of those viral fragments with relatives like chimpanzees and monkeys. And we do, in thousands of places throughout our genome. If that were a coincidence, humans and chimpanzees would have had to endure an incalculable number of identical viral infections in the course of millions of years, and then, somehow, those infections would have had to end up in exactly the same place within each genome. The rungs of the ladder of human DNA consist of three billion pairs of nucleotides spread across forty-six chromosomes. The sequences of those nucleotides determine how each person differs from another, and from all other living things. The only way that humans, in thousands of seemingly random locations, could possess the exact retroviral DNA found in another species is by inheriting it from a common ancestor.
Exactly!

OMG, the whole second half of that article is orgasmic. I will probably come back to it later to hit on some of the cool stuff the author hits on (though long-time ERV readers will recognize a lot of it already!).

Thank you, reader from Drake!!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

No hell below us, above us only David Mills?

David Mills, author of "Atheist Universe", has lost his mind. And Im jealous :(

Atheist Floating to Heavens

HUNTINGTON, West Virginia / KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida — As the number of publicly-declared atheists continues to rise in the US and Canada, a new-generation atheist author will, in his own words, "float like an angel in heaven" on Sunday, December 9, 2007 to draw attention to his unholy cause. David Mills, author of the divisive yet briskly-selling book Atheist Universe, is scheduled to become history's first avowed atheist author to fly into zero gravity.

If the mission proceeds as scheduled, Mills, 48, will fly from Kennedy Space Center aboard G-Force One, the same modified 727 space-plane that ferried renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking into weightlessness on April 26, 2007. Unlike Professor Hawking, who was rewarded for his stellar scientific achievements with a "free ride" aboard G-Force One, Mills is self-financing his own cosmic excursion. G-Force One was also previously employed by Producer Ron Howard and Tom Hanks to film weightless scenes for the movie Apollo 13.

When asked what he hoped to achieve through his expensive voyage, Mills replied, "Religious believers think they're going to float like an angel in heaven after they die. Atheists, by contrast, believe that the only life we're ever going to experience is right here and right now. So I'm floating like an angel on December 9th.

"There are still millions of atheists in our nation who feel alone and isolated. I also want to raise their awareness of the diversity of free-thought organizations that now exist for them: The Richard Dawkins Foundation, The Secular Web, The Rational Response Squad, Atheist Alliance, The Freedom From Religion Foundation, and American Atheists to name just a few." He adds, "I hope this flight boosts public visibility of the atheist movement for non-believers and believers alike and underscores that, together, we must work now on earth to resolve our conflicts, rather than storing our treasures in a nonexistent heaven."

According to Mills, who lives in Huntington, WV, "Many other atheists have certainly preceded me throughout the 45 years of manned-space flight. But I'll be proudly and openly representing the estimated 15 million atheists in the US, many of whom continue to feel underrepresented. Like it or not, there are plenty of us [atheists] out there. We're your next-door neighbors and coworkers."

Mills' book Atheist Universe ignited the explosion of atheist books in 2004-05, when it became Amazon.com's emergent and best-selling title on the subject, a sales ranking that it maintained for over two years. Since that time, however, other, better-known authors have followed with atheist volumes of their own, including Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), Sam Harris (The End of Faith & Letter to a Christian Nation), Daniel Dennett (Breaking the Spell) and Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great). Dawkins quotes Mills extensively in The God Delusion, describing Mills' anti-Fundamentalist writings as "admirable work." Mills' book showcases a Foreword and personal endorsement by Dorion Sagan, son of the late astronomer Carl Sagan.

Not everyone supports Mills and his floating book tour. A Baptist pastor in nearby Charleston, WV, who asked to voice an observation without identifying himself, said, "This is yet another sorry illustration of Mills' juvenile behavior and immature intellect. He uses cheap stunts and theatrics as a substitute for intellectual substance in his writings. Even if he were the first man on Mars, it wouldn't prove that one word of his book was true. We already knew that Mills' brain was weightless, so now the rest of him will be weightless too. This proves only that he's a lightweight. But the Word of God will stand forever on a solid foundation."

Mills' flight aboard G-Force One will jet steeply over the Atlantic Ocean after leaving the Kennedy Space Center. After achieving the necessary sub-orbital altitude, the G-Force craft will then execute a series of high-speed 45-degree nose-dives back toward Earth, creating the weightless condition NASA uses to train its corps of astronauts. Mills' flight entails 15 such parabolic maneuvers, simulating Zero G (or weightlessness), Lunar (1/6th) gravity, and Martian (1/3rd) gravity for approximately 30 seconds during each earthward tumble.

There are 5 such gravity-escaping aircraft on the planet. Three are owned by the governments of Russia, France and the US. Two are owned by Zero Gravity Corporation of Las Vegas, NV, from whom Mills purchased, without sponsorship, his flight into weightlessness.

When asked about personal fear or trepidation about embarking on such a roller coaster flight—described even by hard-boiled NASA astronauts as the "Vomit Comet"—Mills jokingly replied: "To me, Zero G means zero gods. In the highly unlikely event that the aircraft disintegrates before landing safely back at Kennedy, I'll be at peace. I know in my heart where I'm going . . . to the bottom of the ocean to be pilfered by squid."


J-E-A-L-O-U-S

Monday, December 03, 2007

All work and no play makes ERV something something...

End of the semester fun is going on right now, but I took 15 minutes to relax and make some more LOLCreationists. Feel free to add some more, if The Spirit moves you (*cough*ART*cough*)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Real Allies in the War on AIDS

People have stated that I was too harsh on Desmond Tutu and his anti-HIV activities. Thats okay! You like Tutus work, fantastic! I, however, think that his words and actions against the radical religious groups invading Africa are muted due to the fact that he himself is part of a religious organization.

It was half-assed of me to snap at him without showing an example of an organization and a leader that I like in the War on HIV/AIDS. I eventually did in the comments, but I think it deserves its own post.

This is an Anti-AIDS organization.

Treatment Action Campaign

I know you all can click over to Wiki to read all about it, but heres why I like them:

  • Founded by an atheist. A gay atheist. A gay atheist infected with HIV.
  • While TAC makes compromises to include religious groups in TACs activities, they have no problem calling bullshit bullshit.
  • Oh just being mouthy anti-magic groups isnt enough to win my approval-- Check out the top link: AIDStruth. Yeah baby!
  • They helped refute Farbers Denialist crap.
  • An atheist posting anti-Denialist stuff is great, but what I care about are actions. This group is all about action and civil disobedience.
  • They dont just debunk Denialists, they go after them.
  • They defend everyone. Its easy to care about mothers and infants. Its hard to care about convicted criminals.
  • Click around on their site-- there are lots of cool finds.

*shrug* When real people are providing real help, I just dont find Tutu's words particularly remarkable, other than the fact he is a magician speaking some sense on a few topics.

Save praise for the praiseworthy.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

World AIDS Day-- "Fiddling whilst our Rome was burning"

Today is another World AIDS Day. Admittedly, I forget about this sort of thing-- I get so focused on my research, the basic functioning and evolution of the HIV virus itself, all biochemistry and genetics, that I forget that my samples come from real people. Real children. Real mothers. With real relatives and friends who really need help. Real help. Whether it comes from more real scientific research or real food/water/juice donations or real counseling from people who really mean it, it needs to be real.

We might be desperate, but this is not the time for magic. This is time for reality. But The Usual Suspects are fighting reality, tooth and nail:

"Faith-based groups like these are the foot soldiers in the armies of compassion," he said. "They are helping to defeat this epidemic one soul at a time."
There are no words to this. You know how I feel. You know the venom I would spit in this idiots face, should he say such words in my presence. This is a disgusting sentiment that should make any person of faith vomit.

But it doesnt.

The filthy vultures that feed on the rotting guts of crumbling societies care nothing for real people and their real needs. They care about propagating their brand of magic, at any cost. Some of these vultures are 'starting' to feel a bit guilty:
Desmond Tutu is a South African cleric, activist and Nobel laureate who has often spoken out on AIDS in Africa. He has called for the Catholic church to adopt a "more reasonable position with regards to condoms and HIV/AIDS."

More:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who took on South Africa's apartheid government as the country's first black bishop and won the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize, said the battle was far from won.

"We face a monumental crisis, one that was horribly exacerbated when we wasted valuable time in futile academic discussions and debates about the causes of AIDS," he said in a speech to diplomats on Friday.

"We were fiddling whilst our Rome was burning. People who would have been alive today, died needlessly."

Oh really. How nice. So... how long is Tutu going to remain part of a system that exacerbates this epidemic? How many more people are these loving people of sophisticated faith going to let die for their magic? How far will they let Rome burn? What do they even care, if Rome is burning?

As long as souls are saved, as long as souls arent burning.

Thats the goal of the foot solders of faith.

Im sorry, I now remember why I dont think of these things much. Why I stay locked up in my lab, safe with the cell lines and plasmids and acrylamide. I simply cant stand the stench of faith-based vultures, the sound of them feeding off suffering and death... I cant understand it. Im going to go be sick.


Edited 12:45 am-- Some folks are thinking that Im being too hard on Tutu. Theyre right. I want him to say to the missionaries "Help, or get the hell out of my country." I want him to say "Pope, youre a disgrace to Christianity, promoting these killer rules." But thats not going to happen. It is unfair to lash out at Tutu who is trying to help, when others are obviously causing harm.

Dembskis 'Animation' and Hanlons Razor

Hanlons Razor-- "Never assume malice when stupidity will suffice."

Dembski probably didnt modify that animation himself. Hes just a friggen idiot.

Greg Laden just stumbled upon the altered animation (seriously, we've been looking for that damn thing for MONTHS, and Gregs just like 'Hmm, lipid rafts.' ARRG!). It was uploaded in 2006, and doesnt appear to be anything malicious-- from the other videos uploaded, its probably just some student who did it for a class presentation. Its definitely the one-- stutter of the animation at the beginning, faint credits at the end.

Dembski is just a tard.

Not a malicious tard.

But stupidity isnt an excuse for what he did, nor does it explain his bizarre reaction to being called out. Ah well-- I contacted GoogleVideo, going to have them take it down, hope I can get into contact with the dude who did it. But there are still downloaded copies of this animation out there. Keep your eyes open for this and other pictures/animations/etc that Creationists might be pilfering.




Edited 12.20 pm to add-- AtBC poster Reciprocating Bill predicted this, ROFL!!