Nematodes are not designed, they evolved


The latest fatuous obsession by Paul Nelson, Philosopher of Biology at the Discovery Institute, is a real corker. He has decided that nematodes could not possibly have evolved, because scientists (real ones, not creationist pseudoscientists) have produced an extremely detailed literature documenting their development; because Brenner, Horvitz, and Sulston (no creationists among them) won the Nobel Prize for their work describing the cell lineages to produce the worm; and because he doesn’t understand developmental biology at all. I’ve got palm impressions in my forehead from smacking myself so many times while watching this terrible little video.

This is why Paul Nelson is laughed at by developmental biologists. He cannot be taken seriously. I figured, though, that if you’re not already familiar with concepts and details of development, you might find him credible — he’s so pompously earnest! — so I thought I’d explain all the ways he goes wrong.

[Read more…]

Friday Cephalopod: Sexually voracious!

I am sure that’s exactly what you think when you see a picture of vampire squid.


But it’s true! Where most cephalopods do the deed once, spawn, and die, Vampyroteuthis has multiple cycles of reproduction. Unfortunately, they’re also cold, gelatinous, and lethargic…which, if you think about it, is also what the undead vampire of myth would be like, so they’re just fulfilling the stereotype.

Neither chocolate nor cochineal


I got as far as the first paragraph before I started throwing red flags, and by the second I was ready to call off the whole game on account of dishonesty. Psychology Today (I should have been alerted by the source) defends EP.

The human brain, just like every aspect of every organism on the planet, is the product of evolution. If you accept that evolution is true, you can’t avoid that conclusion. That’s why I often get confused when I hear reasonable people being broadly dismissive of evolutionary psychology (EP).

EP is simply an approach to psychology that explicitly acknowledges evolution as the designer of brains. This approach may sound non-controversial in principle, at least among those who accept evolution. Nevertheless, many non-creationist critics find plenty of reasons to object to EP, or at least to what they consider EP to be. For examples of some such criticisms see Ed Hagen’s Evolutionary Psychology FAQ.

[Read more…]

The new new Prometheus


Microbiologists are the Frankensteins for our century. They are creating new stinky life.

Cheese is known for its stinky odor. But, cheeses at one exhibit at the Science Gallery Dublin in Trinity College Dublin come from an especially smelly source — human toe, armpit, belly button and mouth bacteria.

Selfmade, which is part of the Grow Your Own…Life After Nature exhibition, features different “microbial sketches” of cheeses created with bacteria samples from various people. Each cheese supposedly smells similar to the donor’s body odor.

[Read more…]

The rot goes all the way to the top


It’s dismaying to see law enforcement in this country exposed as a gang of thugs abusing the rights of citizens — we have a militarized police force that basically executes people they don’t like. Now we learn that even if they survive arrest, suspects will get railroaded straight into a conviction by biased crime labs. The latest culprit: the FBI has been jiggering hair analysis results for decades.

[Read more…]

Asking the wrong question


Charles Pierce does his usual exemplary job of hauling Marco Rubio out to the woodshed, and I can’t improve on it. I do want to mention though, that he missed one point that is a common mantra of the climate change denialists.

RUBIO: "What I said was that humans are not responsible for climate change in the way that some of these people out there are trying to make us believe for the following reason: I believe the climate is changing because there has never been a moment when the climate is not changing..The question is what percentage of that — or what is due to human activity?…If we do the things they want us to do — cap and trade, you name it — how much will that change the pace of climate change versus how much will it cost our economy? Scientists can’t tell us what impact it would have on reversing these changes. But I can tell you with certainty that it would have a devastating impact on our economy."

[Read more…]