The Volvox 2017 website is live

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The website for the Volvox 2017 conference is up at www.volvox2017.org. Registration isn’t open yet, but there’s some information about the venue, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis. The meeting is set for August 16-19, 2017.

The goal of the International Volvox Conference is to bring together international scientists working with Volvox and its relatives (aka Volvocales or volvocine algae). We cordially invite experimentalists and theorists interested in these fascinating organisms.

I’ll keep you posted!

Responses from both Davids (I’m Goliath)

David Klinghoffer and David Coppedge have both responded to my post “Lies of omission and straight-up lies.” Klinghoffer did so in a post on Evolution News and Views, “You Already Support Goliath with Your Tax Dollars; Won’t You Consider Balancing the Scales?“. In it, he calls me a bully for pointing out inconsistencies and omissions in his and Coppedge’s accounts. What he doesn’t do is refute anything I said.

Instead, he reveals how deeply the persecution narrative is embedded in his worldview. So deeply, in fact, that mere criticism is perceived as persecution and bullying. I’ve mentioned the persecution complex before (“The Discovery Institute still doesn’t understand free speech“), and I’m sure others have as well. Here’s how Klinghoffer responds to having inconsistencies in his narrative pointed out:

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Lies of omission and straight-up lies

In a pair of posts over at Evolution News and Views, David Klinghoffer waxes hyperbolic about the 2009 demotion and 2011 layoff of David Coppedge from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (“NASA on Trial: Persecution of David Coppedge Was a Preview of Creeping Totalitarianism“, “NASA Versus David Coppedge: Most Reprehensible Case of Anti-Intelligent Design Persecution Yet?“). It does sound pretty bad, though:

It was back in 2009 that the mild-mannered team lead computer administrator on the Cassini Mission to Saturn was demoted, shamed, and later fired. His workplace offense? Lending out documentaries on DVD favorable to intelligent design.

Coppedge loaned out documentaries on DVD, highlighting relevant scientific evidence of design in biology and cosmology, to willing colleagues. That’s it! That’s all he did.

Shit, that really does sound like religious discrimination. Look, I’m an atheist, but I believe in religious freedom. Firing someone for their religious beliefs, from a government agency no less, is a pretty egregious (even “reprehensible”) violation of the Establishment Clause (“prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”). Assuming, of course, that we’re getting the whole story.

About that… [Read more…]

Evolution of microRNAs in the volvocine algae

The following guest post was kindly provided by Dr. Kimberly Chen. I have edited only for formatting.

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of non-coding small RNAs that regulate numerous developmental processes in plants and animals and are generally associated with the evolution of multicellularity and cellular differentiation. They are processed from long hairpin precursors to mature forms and subsequently loaded into a multi-protein complex, of which the Argonaute (AGO) family protein is the core component. The small RNAs then guide the protein complex to recognize complementary mRNA transcripts and conduct post-transcriptional gene silencing.

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Despicable

I’m resorting to name-calling, and I don’t even know who I’m talking about.

Retraction Watch carries the story of a peer reviewer who published a paper he or she reviewed as his or her own. Stole the paper, in other words:

…after Michael Dansinger of Tufts Medical Center realized a paper he’d submitted to Annals of Internal Medicine that had been rejected was republished, and the journal recognized one of the reviewers among the list of co-authors, it published a letter from Dansinger to the reviewer, along with an editorial explaining what happened.

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Origins of the sexes: isogamy and anisogamy

Sex didn’t always involve males and females. I know it still isn’t always between males and females, but that’s not what I mean. I mean that there was a time when sex was happening, but there were no males and females. Sex existed before males and females, and many species are still doing it without them.

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Out on a limb. Way out.

Last week, I commented on Cornelius Hunter’s claim that the acquisition of antibiotic resistance by bacteria is not an example of evolution. This claim doesn’t just put him at odds with evolutionary biologists, though. It puts him at odds with many of his fellows at the Discovery Institute.

It puts him at odds with David Klinghoffer:

“Antibiotic-resistant bacteria demonstrate evolution by breaking stuff…”

even though Klinghoffer is apparently a fan of the post in which Dr. Hunter claimed the opposite:

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So which is it, Mr. Klinghoffer? Is it “not evolution,” (as Dr. Hunter says) or is it “evolution by breaking stuff” (as you say)? It can’t be both.

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Answers to “Ideological Turing Test”

tl;dr: definitions 3, 5, 7, and 9 are among the answers Barry Arrington says ”…demonstrate no more than a superficial understanding of, and a contempt for, ID”; all the others are from advocates of intelligent design.

I include my own deleted answer (#5) among those Arrington dismisses, since Arrington must have seen it before he made his ‘superficial and contemptuous’ comment.

No one got them all right, for example various commenters thought that answers from Michael Behe, vjtorley, Stephen Meyer, and intelligentdesign.org were from critics of intelligent design. And that, of course, is the point. Arrington dismisses as superficial and contemptuous definitions that are pretty much the same as those offered by fellows of the Discovery Institute. In fact (and I’m surprised no one pointed this out), two of them ARE the same: #2, from the Discovery Institute website intelligentdesign.org, is word for word identical to #7, one of the answers Arrington says is wrong. So according to Arrington, the Discovery Institute’s own definition of intelligent design fails his test. I’d love to point that out, but of course I’ve been banned.

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A fair “Ideological Turing Test”

Barry Arrington wants to pretend that critics of intelligent design don’t understand intelligent design, and so he set up an “Ideological Turing Test,” a challenge to correctly define an opponent’s position:

So, here is my challenge to our opponents: Do you understand ID well enough to pass the Ideological Turing Test? If you think you do, prove it by giving a one paragraph summary of ID in the comments below.

The problem is that Arrington himself is the judge, and he has a pretty good idea which of his readers are critics of intelligent design:

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As Fordgreen points out,

It’s an interesting exercise, but shouldn’t the responses be anonymous for this to work correctly? Isn’t that how a real Turing test would be conducted?

So let’s give it a try. Arrington says that the answers given by critics of intelligent design”…demonstrate no more than a superficial understanding of, and a contempt for, ID.” See if you can distinguish which of the following definitions of intelligent design are superficial and contemptuous straw men and which are the real definitions given by advocates of intelligent design. I suggest really trying it; write down your guesses, or post them in the comments (honor system here, no googling or visiting Arrington’s post, please). I’ll post the answers tomorrow.

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