Who needs an IQ test when you’ve got coalescence?

I am just blown away by the consistency of this observation. You know, the creationists are not all stupid; there’s a wide range of intelligence in their camp, even if they are all wrong. But this one recent paper on the gorilla genome has become such an excellent tool for discriminating the competent from the incompetent.

This was the paper that unsurprisingly explained that gorilla genes reveal a mosaic; that some gorilla genes are closer to human or chimpanzee than the latter are to each other. If you understand the logic of coalescent theory at all, you know this is an expected result. The only way you could fail to see the distribution we observe is if the population went through a bottleneck of exactly two individuals.

But once again, one of the so-called scientists of intelligent design creationism blows it. Doug Axe has announced that the ape family tree is hopelessly broken, and that the gorilla data should call evolutionary theory into question.

Until recently, the answer was that a real family tree should generate a fully consistent pattern of similarities. [Not true at all. Coalescent theory is an extension of Fisher/Wright models of large populations, and the formal mathematics were worked out in the 1980s] For example, we are told that chimps and humans came from the same ancestral stock (call it CH stock) and that gorillas, chimps and humans all came from an earlier ancestral stock (GCH stock) [Correct so far]. If so, then the human and chimp genomes should consistently be more similar to each other than either is to the gorilla genome [WRONG. They should not be consistently more similar. Does he know nothing of probability?], since the human and chimp histories were one and the same thing more recently than the human and gorilla (or chimp and gorilla) histories were.

Well, the recent publication of the gorilla genome sequence shows that the expected pattern just isn’t there [Jebus. Read the paper. The pattern observed is the expected pattern.]. Instead of a nested hierarchy of similarities, we see something more like a mosaic [AS WE'D EXPECT.]. According to a recent report, “In 30% of the genome, gorilla is closer to human or chimpanzee than the latter are to each other…”

That’s sufficiently difficult to square with Darwin’s tree that it ought to bring the whole theory into question. And in an ideal world where Darwinism is examined the way scientific theories ought to be examined, I think it would. But in the real world things aren’t always so simple [And yet the creationists keep throwing up their simplistic models and being surprised that they're wrong].

Axe is the one guy the creationists keep touting as a real scientist, a guy with genuine chops in molecular biology, the man who is doing serious scientific work. You know, if you’re going to publicly criticize an observation and claim it calls into question the entirety of evolutionary theory, you ought to first look into it and see whether that observation actually fits a prediction of evolution — actual evolutionary theory, not that cartoonishly naive caricature of evolution the creationists all have in their heads.

Here’s a nice, short history of coalescent theory by Kingman. It’s been around for decades, long before the gorilla genome was sequenced, and it predicted what kinds of distributions we ought to see in our comparisons of different species…predictions that were borne out by the paper Axe thinks contradicts evolutionary theory.

“Athiests” actually is a misunderstood word

Oh, great. Now we’re being hectored by sorcerers. In An open letter to the New Athiests, some guy Who peddles a One Year Intensive Course in real magic wags his finger and lectures us on what’s wrong with “athiests” — we’re all a bunch of dicks.

In short, you have a lot of important things to say but as long as you continue to prenent yourselves like obnoxious zealots far keener to argue than discuss and talk at rather than with, you will actually only set yourselves further back and make the word “Athiest” into an even more misunderstood word than it already is. It wont be because you are wrong necessarily. It will just be because no one likes you.

Right. I’m going to take advice from a self-proclaimed sorcerer who makes a long tirade against atheists and misspells the term every single time.

Here’s the problem: I’ve noticed that people who deeply wrong, like sorcerers, Christians, and creationists, love to tell us that being right isn’t as important as being liked. I suspect they’re driven by self-interest rather than honesty.

All I can say is…you don’t understand me at all if you think I’m trying to persuade you to like me, dumbass.

Why I am an atheist – Beth (the very happy lesbian)

In short, I was able to see the beauty of science with my own two eyes from a very early age.

My father loves science. Accordingly, when I was a 4 year old afraid of an earthquake he taught me about plate tectonics. I spent hours asking him questions about the universe when my mother was at work on the weekends, and I was gifted my first telescope at the age of 7.

So when the bible teacher (in a public primary school I might add!) told us that earthquakes were created by god when I was 8 years old, I immediately realised religion was a fraud. It’s lucky I did, because I later discovered that I was a lesbian. Who knows how much pain and repression I would have suffered if I had allowed that bible teacher to brainwash me!

Beth (the very happy lesbian)
New Zealand

A fine time in Morris

#MSOC is off to a great start — we had the first talk this evening (OK, it was me, ho hum), and I was impressed: we got a good crowd of people, and most importantly, they weren’t just the usual science faculty and students I see every day, but we actually succeeded in drawing in people from the local community and region. Yay, student organizers done good!

We had a good dinner with Neil Shubin, Marco Peloso, Dan Demetriou, and a gaggle of the student organizers at the local Italian place tonight. Tomorrow, more talks! It’s not too late to join us!

An innovative legal strategy

David Coppedge, the creationist who was fired from JPL and is currently trying to sue them, has submitted his legal brief as plaintiff in the case. It is…bizarre. It includes a screenplay in which Coppedge imagines a dialog between a couple of JPL staff — a dialog in which he was not present, which basically makes it a work of fiction.

Are court cases often resolved on the basis of creative writing?

This kind of crankery really seems to be part of a trend: there was Kent Hovind’s “subornation of false muster” defense, Bill Buckingham and Alan Bonsell lying on the witness stand in the Dover trial, the prolonged whining by Freshwater, accused of burning a cross into a student’s arm. Creationism seems to draw in the wackiest court cretins; I guess it’s not surprising, given that you have to be a bit off to fall for creationism in the first place.

Martin Pribble: CRUSHED.

It was all about defeating that Australian upstart, and I have succeeded. Martin Pribble, my “competition” in the Readers' Choice for Favorite Agnostic / Atheist Blog of 2012, has been totally defeated, routed, smashed, squished, annihilated, beaten.

Furthermore, the grudge match continues. He has been challenged to a Hug-Off at the GAC in Melbourne. He shall be pulped in person. I shall emerge as the most cuddly huggable lovable atheist in the world by standing on the bleeding, broken corpses of my opponents.

That’s how a Hug-Off works, right? And this isn’t going to happen?