Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Burnee links for Wednesday (and my 200th EB post)

Moderately warm, with periods of extreme drought, followed by a flaming delugeCreation Science Movement — SUMO proteins wrestle cancer mutations
The big question for evolutionists is, since our DNA breaks down when left to itself, how did our ancestors survive before the many and complicated DNA repair mechanisms evolved? As this SUMO protein story shows, the more we discover, the more complicated it is. SUMO proteins certainly bear the hallmark of design.
They just don't get it, do they? Cancer mutations are examples of mutations that are harmful, and which will tend to make the organism less likely to survive (although if the onset of cancer is more often after rather than before reproductive age, the mutated genes are likely to be inherited). If DNA repair mechanisms have evolved, it's because they make it more likely that the genes responsible for those mechanisms will be inherited. What's so difficult to grasp about that? As for bearing "the hallmark of design" — it looks designed, so it must have a designer — yeah, yeah. (Have any of these creationists actually read On the Origin of Species?) DNA breaks down when left to itself? Mutations on the whole are neutral — they don't affect survivability. Some mutations are detrimental, and are therefore less likely to be passed on. Some mutations are beneficial, and are therefore more likely to be passed on. It really isn't that hard, surely?


On pulling teeth and asking AnAtheist for some evidence | The Tentative Apologist

I've been sorely tempted over the past few months to register with this site in order to post some comments of my own. Thankfully I've resisted the temptation, because I know I would likely be drawn into fruitless and frustrating to-and-fro. Randal Rauser, the "Tentative Apologist", is one of those theologians who refuses to be pinned down on anything at all. This latest post is about his request for one of his commenters, AnAtheist.net, to provide evidence for his atheism. Mr. Tentative Apologist knows perfectly well that the burden of proof does not lie with AnAtheist.net, because it isn't AnAtheist.net who is making a claim. Nevertheless Mr. T. A. continues to maintain that lack of belief in a god or gods is a claim of some kind, which requires evidence in support of it. It's telling that William Lane Craig uses the same tactic in debates about the existence of God, where he always reframes the question so that he can demand that his opponent provide "evidence that atheism is true". But if I say I see no compelling evidence for the existence of a god or gods, I'm not making a claim about the existence of anything. What use is it, therefore, to ask me to provide evidence for the lack of evidence? (I'm glad I've so far resisted the aforementioned temptation.)


Bad Idea of 2009: “other ways of knowing” « Why Evolution Is True
My vote for the worst idea of 2009 — at least in the “faith wars” — is that science and religion provide complementary (and equally valid) “ways of knowing.” It’s an idea that’s been bruited about by not just the faithful, but by atheist accommodationists like those running the National Center for Science Education.
This idea is terrible because a. it’s nonsensical, b. its proponents never examine it critically, because if they did they’d see that c. it’s wrong. It’s a mantra, a buzz-phrase.
I'd vote for that too (but only if I could also vote for the Irish Blasphemy Law, and....)


Stephen Law: Seeing Angels

This is about the recent Radio 4 Beyond Belief programme in which Chris French was asked what evidence would convince him of the existence of angels. Professor French gave a perfectly reasonable reply, in terms of a controlled experiment, which was then summarily rejected on the grounds of such things as angels being not susceptible to scientific investigation. The woo-merchants do this all the time — it makes me wonder what precisely they mean by "existence". (See my own blogpost for various links to the audio.)


Skeptic » eSkeptic » Wednesday, December 30th, 2009 — Oh, the Horror! Why Skeptics Should Embrace the Supernatural on Television by Jason Colavito

An interesting essay on the origins of supernatural fiction. (The title, however, is misleading — it's not about TV.) Some people automatically assume that if you write about ghosts you naturally believe they exist. Not so; I think the evidence for the existence of ghosts is extremely poor, but that doesn't stop me writing stories in which they feature as "real" entities. One thing that does annoy me about some "hackwork" (to use Colavito's term), and which does often apply to TV as well as film, is the idea that not only is the supernatural element real, but that it is also completely understood. I've lost count of the number of B-movie horror plots in which some character ("expert", "scientist", "investigator" or whatever) takes ten minutes to perform some massive infodump that leaves nothing to speculation. That usually occurs in the first half-hour, which at least gives me the chance to say, "Thanks, but no thanks," and switch off.


Celebrations! (or something....) — this is my 200th Evil Burnee post.
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