Examples of evolution

Here are some basic examples of evolution for those zealots who still reject good science in favor of their unfounded belief in magic.

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Poetic wax

The clearest of nights is the most beautiful of nights. Hidden from my region of space, the moon fails – quite wonderfully – to hinder my view of this galaxy that is just one of billions. The stars, twinkled by Earth’s atmosphere, are nothing short of perfect. The gods of the cosmos, at least until daybreak, their power is felt so easily by anyone who joys to skyward.

Stars

Emotional Appeals

Ben Stein tells us that evolution leads to genocide. It leads to atheism (which is implicitly bad, apparently). Chaos, murder, cancer, and sad puppies will infest the world if evolution is embraced. It only makes sense then that we should necessarily reject evolution if we want to live in a world of peace and goodness.

Of course, that all sounds utterly silly. But it’s the argument being put forth by Christians all the time (if not in form, then principle): because X leads to something bad, it should be rejected. It is an appeal to emotion. No one wants something bad to be true, so claiming a falsehood on that thing can bring some sort of sense of mind. These people are not ones with which to be reasoned easily.

Emotional appeals are useless in determining what is true. It is the simple truth of something which is important to me. I do not accept or reject evolution based upon an philosophical underpinings or relations. To do so is to make my acceptance or rejection irrelevant and meaningless. If evolution somehow automatically leads to the philosophy of Hitler, that’s unfortunate. That, however, has zero bearing on the truth of evolutionary theory. Either life evolved through small, gradual steps over billions of years of common descent or it didn’t. Nothing Hitler ever thought can change that.

It should not be acceptable for a person to make an emotional appeal on an issue of truth. Save that for the subjectivity of a relationship. We should believe not based upon what we want to believe, but based instead upon evidence. It is evidence which holds so much importance to our lives and to our ability to discern what is true and what is not. Our emotions have no influence over truth.

John Lott is a big fat liar

Well, of course John Lott is a big, fat liar. He writes for FOX News. That’s the ultimate cesspool of journalism. It is where people actually go when they want to lie. It’s allowed there.

Lott recently gave a response to all the bloggers who called him out for being a big, fat liar.

My piece at Fox News yesterday on the inconsistent rules for counting ballots in Minnesota’s Senate race has produced a lot of reaction. Nate Silver over at fivethirtyeight claims in the title of his post that my piece “blames liberal conspiracy.” My piece didn’t mention the words “liberal” or “conspiracy” (nor did it say that Democrats or Franken were involved in some secret conspiracy or use any similar synonyms). Nor did I say that people had made mistakes intentionally (unlike Nate, I don’t claim to know what is going on in people’s minds).

My point was simple: “The primary problem isn’t the rules. The real problem is the lack of consistency.”

There are actually two issues here. The first, of course, is that John Lott is a big, fat liar. The second is that he must be dumb. He’s a big fat liar because his point was not that the rules are inconsistent. His point was “[w]hen the recount is in Franken’s favor [a particular method] is used. When the original machine tally works best [for Franken] that is used.” This is the true point of Lott’s conspiracy piece. It isn’t that he actually cares about the inconsistency of the recount method. It’s that he cares that the inconsistency is favoring Franken rather than Coleman. That’s the very reason FOX News published his piece. And he must be dumb because it isn’t really necessary that he spell out the words “liberal” or “conspiracy”. It’s difficult to outfox your critics if you’re blatant about your bias. It would be like someone writing a book about the government killing JFK without using the word “conspiracy” and then subsequently whining “B-b-but it isn’t a conspiracy! I didn’t use that word! See? See!?”

Beside that, Silver was specifically referring to FOX News, not Lott’s big, fat liar piece, because this was displayed on the front page of its website:

FOX

Instead, he focuses on the fact that the Star Tribune data base made a mistake in classifying one of the ballots and that I relied on that for one of my examples. The fact that my website had already noted this and corrected that one ballot example before his post was put up is never mentioned by Silver. He also incorrectly implied that I hadn’t double checked that ballot, but he didn’t make any telephone calls or check this point either. It is not surprising that he wouldn’t try to check these points out before making his assertions.

This is why FOX News published Lott’s piece. He’s a liar that is incredibly ironic, but has absolutely no idea of this fact. Okay, Natey, you’re upset because Silver “incorrectly implied” something? Let’s take a look at your piece.

Nor can Coleman even win when there is an oval filled in for Coleman and the Constitution Party candidate receives an “X.”

And how is this not implying a bias toward Franken? Coleman can’t even win the bias is so bad! Oh, but you actually mean Coleman can’t win because the rules are so inconsistent. If the rules were simply inconsistent one would expect to see an averaging out with the inconsistency because both Coleman and Franken would experience the inconsistency. Because the results are so close, the errors would be relatively close for both sides in all likelihood or they would favor one candidate sheerly by chance. You damn well know that. You’re actually whining about a big, liberal conspiracy because you’ve discarded the notion that the rules are actually inconsistent – that’s the point of your piece. You’re saying the rules are inconsistent in favor of Franken. That means you were never actually writing about how the rules were inconsistent. You were writing about a big, liberal conspiracy. Oh, but you never used those words so nevermind, right?

But why are you complaining that Silver implied you didn’t double-check the ballot? You didn’t until after publication. Deal with it, you big, fat liar.

People like John Lott and FOX News are excellent examples of our failed media.

Merry Christmas

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A merry Christmas to all on this secular, federal holiday.

Media failings

The mainstream media often fails us. It isn’t because it’s THE CRAZY LEFT-WING OMG OMG OMG!!1!!. It’s because it sucks. The people running the media care about superficial things. What’s Britney doing today? Why are Angelina and Jennifer fighting? What in the fuck have we said these people’s name so much that we’re on a first-name basis?

Well, of course, it comes as no surprise that the worst of the news outlets, FOX, is trying to blame a typo on a vast liberal conspiracy.

Who was this ballot cast for?

Ballot

Norm Coleman, right?

No, this is not a trick question. Unless your name is John Lott, Jr., Ph.D. and you just published an analysis at FoxNews.com.

So where did Lott get the idea that the vote had been counted for Franken? Apparently from the Star Tribune’s website, which had it listed it that way. The Star Tribune, keeping an unofficial tally of more than 6,000 challenged ballots, apparently made a boo-boo.

This possibility appears not to have crossed Lott’s mind. Faced with two alternatives…

1. The Canvassing Board somehow determined that this was a Franken ballot;
2. The Star Tribune screwed up.

…Lott took Occam’s Razor and cut himself with it, and concluded that the former must be true, using it as his primary piece of evidence to allege the recount was slanted in Al Franken’s favor. The ballot is now featured prominently on the front page of the FoxNews.com website:

FOX

So, we all expect FOX News to be filled with a bunch of stupid fuck-ups. That’s their thing. But how about EVERYONE else?

This is happening right now, here in the United States. Yesterday, a retaining wall failed, and 500 million gallons of coal ash — the vile grey slime in the video — poured down into the tributaries of the Tennessee River, the water supply for Chattannooga and environs.

We’re looking at a major environmental catastrophe, bigger than any oil spill, and most of the news media are silent about it. I checked CNN, MS-NBC, even Fox News…not a word. The local newspapers have a few articles, and the regional blogs are trying to follow it, but otherwise, I guess we’re going to pretend it didn’t happen.

I just did my own search through Yahoo! News and came up with an astounding 27 results. Except for Scientific American and The Huffington Post, all the results are from local sources. In fact, after the first page of 10 results, there is only one more result which has anything to actually do with this event, bringing the total to 11 sources, 9 of which are local. A search of “Britney” provided 5,190 absolutely ridiculous results. Presumably, a large portion of those go to Britney Spears (4,040 come up when I search her full name).

Origins

It’s only a matter of time until something very much like life is created in the lab. Until then, scientists are still working on how it happened, nearly 4 billion years ago. The research is promising.

With the aid of a straightforward experiment, researchers have provided some clues to one of biology’s most complex questions: how ancient organic molecules came together to form the basis of life.

Specifically, this study demonstrated how ancient RNA joined together to reach a biologically relevant length.

RNA, the single-stranded precursor to DNA, normally expands one nucleic base at a time, growing sequentially like a linked chain. The problem is that in the primordial world RNA molecules didn’t have enzymes to catalyze this reaction, and while RNA growth can proceed naturally, the rate would be so slow the RNA could never get more than a few pieces long (for as nucleic bases attach to one end, they can also drop off the other).

Ernesto Di Mauro and colleagues examined if there was some mechanism to overcome this thermodynamic barrier, by incubating short RNA fragments in water of different temperatures and pH.

They found that under favorable conditions (acidic environment and temperature lower than 70 degrees Celsius), pieces ranging from 10-24 in length could naturally fuse into larger fragments, generally within 14 hours.

The RNA fragments came together as double-stranded structures then joined at the ends. The fragments did not have to be the same size, but the efficiency of the reactions was dependent on fragment size (larger is better, though efficiency drops again after reaching around 100) and the similarity of the fragment sequences.

The researchers note that this spontaneous fusing, or ligation, would [be] a simple way for RNA to overcome initial barriers to growth and reach a biologically important size; at around 100 bases long, RNA molecules can begin to fold into functional, 3D shapes.

Enzymes basically make things go faster. That means that reactions that are caused by a particular protein (say, lactase breaking down lactose into its constituents – if you can’t do this or do it poorly, you’re lactose intolerant) can happen anyway, but they will happen far more slowly. In some instances, they essentially will not happen except by tremendous stroke of luck (though, again, the potential is always there).

What’s particularly interesting to note here is that it is very difficult to say what the pH balance of different bodies of water would be on an early Earth. It is entirely plausible that acidic levels would be higher, leading to the ability of these RNA molecules to form 3D shapes. And, of course, because biology is very much dependent on shape, these formations could act as proteins, if not plainly be defined as such. By doing this, a rudimentary evolution could begin to take place. We may not define these replicators as being life, but they would hold many of its characteristics – taking in energy and out, being subject to at least a form of natural selection.