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Posts posted by lucaspa

  1. How do you know it's not all just a dream? I'm going to guess that this is going to have a similar answer to the 'brain in the vat' hypothesis.


    Any takers?


    I suggest you read Kitty Ferguson's Fire in the Equations. Technically, we don't. Existence could be The Matrix. Or it could be a computer program like the Sherlock Holmes hologram program was placed within in Star Trek the Next Generation. Or it could all take place in the imagination of another being.


    ydoaPs, in any search for truth we must accept some statements to be true even tho we may never be able to prove they are true. The seminal statements seem to be:

    1. I exist.

    2. I am sane.


    You need the first for objective existence (it's not a dream) and you need the second so that you can trust your sense impressions. All evidence is what we sense (personal experience): what we see, hear, touch, taste, smell, or feel emotionally.

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    If we look at the formation of the universe, fifty years ago we had big bang theory and the biblical creationism. That was enough for many decades. But now we have many more universe realities.


    I must have missed the data for these "many more universes". Can you please post references to data showing these "many more universes" exist?


    I think you need to make a distinction between hypotheses/theories and reality. Yes, we have many hypotheses concerning the existence of multiple universes, but none of them has any supporting data. Without that, you can't say they are "realities".


    BTW, 50 years ago we did not have biblical creationism. The corpse was only exhumed in 1962 with The Genesis Flood by Whitcomb and Morris.

  2. I think the YEC may possibly have a point for once. In non-YEC Christianity, how does 'The Fall' work? Was man just always in a sinful state of being. If so, what is the point of the genesis fable?


    Genesis 2 is an allegory. This becomes clear when you realize that Adam and Eve in Hebrew are not names like "Paul", "Mary", "Joe", "Sue", etc. That is, words that are only used as names. Instead we have a story of Dirt and Hearth.


    What is the "Fall"? It's disobedience of God, and thus being emotionally cut off from God. Adam and Eve are meant to stand for each and every one of us. At some point in our lives we all disobey God.


    YEC makes a theological mistake because it misinterprets parts of some letters of Paul. It takes those letters out of the social and historical context and has them mean something Paul never meant. Paul was never trying to make a coherent theology. He thought the end of the world was coming in his generation and his task was to spread the gospel to as many Gentiles as he could. But Paul was also a Jew and wanted those Gentiles to accept parts of Judaism. However, Paul had already told them the Laws did not apply to them, and the Torah does not mention Jesus. So Paul tried to make a connection between Jesus and Adam. So now Biblical literalists (and YECs are all literalists) have the idea that if Adam and Eve were not real and there was no Fall, then there is no need of Jesus and salvation. However, in many other places Paul emphasizes that Jesus died for our sins, not Adam and Eve's.


    Ironically, evolution by natural selection gives an explanation why humans tend to disobey God. As Darwin and others have pointed out, natural selection is incapable of absolute altruism.

    "If it could be proved that any part of the structure of any one species had been formed for the exclusive good of another species, it would annihilate my theory, for such could not have been produced through natural selection." Origin, pg 501.


    Natural selection always has a selfish component for the individual. Disobedience is based on selfishness: it is placing our interests (whether eating a forbidden fruit or taking a cookie from the cookie jar) over what our parents or God tell us. We need salvation because of the very process God used to create us.


    The Genesis 2 authors did not about evolution and natural selection, but they could see the inherent selfishness in humans. So they made the allegory.


    Now, the consequences of the "Fall" turn out to be naive but touching explanations for some puzzling aspects of the natural world: why women have pain in childbirth but still want sex later, why farming is so difficult, and why humans hate snakes.

  3. So, I would think that there are so many "coincidences" that I find it impossible for anyone who really understands physics or chemistry to believe that all this we are studying just came about by chance! The universe is too perfectly designed for that. From the smallest atom to the largest galaxy, incredible design features abound in our universe. These design features I believe are the fingerprints of God.


    The sciences make me believe in God, more everyday. What do you guys think? :D


    I think you are using the Strong Anthropic Principle. The problem is that the SAP has an error in logic. You are saying that the universe must have the values for the neutron and everything else just as it is. But it doesn't. You have made an error in logic. Here, read this carefully:


    "According to the Anthropic Principle, we are entitled to infer facts about the universe and its laws from the undisputed fact that we (we anthropoi, human beings) are here to do the inferring and observing. The Anthropic Principle comes in several flavors.

    In the "weak form" it is a sound, harmless, and on occasion useful application of elementary logic: if x is a necessary condition for the existence of y, and y exists, then x exists. If consciousness depends on complex physical structures, and complex physical structures depend on large molecules composed of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium, then, since we are conscious, the world must contain such elements.

    "But notice that there is a loose cannon on the deck in the previous sentence: the wandering "must". I have followed the common practice in English of couching a claim of necessity in a technically incorrect way. As any student in logic class soon learns, what I really should have written is: *It must be the case that*: if consciousness depends ... then, since we are conscious, the world *contains* such elements.


    The conclusion that can be validly drawn is only that the world *does* contain such elements, not that it *had* to contain such elements. It *has* to contain such elements *for us to exist*, we may grant, but it might not have contained such elements, and if that had been the case, we wouldn't be here to be dismayed. It's as simple as that.

    Take a simpler example. Suppose John is a bachelor. Then he *must* be single, right? (That's a truth of logic.) Poor John -- he can never get married! The fallacy is obvious in this example, and it is worth keeping it in the back of your mind as a template to compare other arguments with."

    Daniel Dennett, Darwin's Dangerous Ideas, pp. 165-166.

    BTW, I did not vote in the poll because you did not state "I believe God exists." "I believe God does not exist." You also did not put the third alternative: "I do not know if God exists or not."

    That third alternative is the position of science.

  4. Did Jesus teach faith only salvation(like Paul), or did He teach that works are necessary? I tend to think the latter, despite much opposition by most Christian sects. In my defense, it's one of the major themes of Matthew.


    I think this is not a forum that is most appropriate for Science Forums. You are not going to get a detailed theological discussion here. I suggest www.christianforums.com or www.beliefnet.com.


    I would say that there is an inherent difficulty in basing any theological argument solely on Matthew. Matthew is specifically addressed to the Jews. The birth narrative, for instance, is tailored to make Jesus seem as much like Moses as possible, to make Jesus more palatable to the Jews as Messiah. I would say that it is very possible that Matthew deliberately made works part of salvation because Judaism placed such an emphasis on "works" in the form of the Laws. Thus, Matthew again would be making Christianity more palatable to the Jews than Paul's theology (which came before the gospel of Matthew was written).

  5. IWhen people defend their religious beliefs, are they actually expressing a form of Stockholm Syndrome?

    Are they ultimately prisoners defending their jailers, and isolating themselves solely into their captor's ... or, in this case... isolating themselves solely into their god's perspective?


    Some may be. But you have not shown that theists are captives. This is especially true in the West. It has been 200-300 years since a person's belief in a different religion would result in abuse and capture. People today routinely change churches or even drop theism without any ill effects from any "captor".


    It's been stock atheistic dogma for a long time that theists are theists simply out of fear. This is just the latest twist on that theme. As Pioneer points out, we as a society are exercising much stricter control of what he calls "political correctness" or decent treatment of ethnic, gender, and social groups. We have far more punishments available that affect a person now than any religion, who can now only call upon some future and undocumented "eternal punishment".

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    I would suspect everyone who has ever been/is religious has felt that pang of discord between what you feel is right and what you were taught is Right.


    I haven't. The only discord I find myself in is not being able to live up to what is "Right". That is, I feel that some things need to be done -- such as fighting and killing in war -- but I don't delude myself that they are "Right". I also often find myself in conflict between what parts of society think is right and what I was taught is Right. I am facing that right now with respect to the immigration and gay rights issue.

  6. What I would like to do is treat religion as a behavior, and look at this behavior in the context of evolution, to see if this new behavior brought selective advantage. Instead of treating religion as pro or con, I am treating religion as a new human behavior that suddenly appears.


    Here is the scenario; it is 10,000 years ago or so and humans are an extension of the apes and evolution, things moving slowly forward. Suddenly a new behavior appears in some of the pre-humans. Did this bring these humans a selective advantage?


    As someone noted, this is not an original idea. Several atheistic scientists are playing around with it.


    Your time frame is way off. H. sapiens appeared at least 100,000 years ago. Species as modified apes go back at least 3.6 million years (A. afarensis). By 10,000 years ago people were starting agriculture and having societies larger than the extended family tribe. So your selective advantage has to go back at least 100,000 years.


    One way to answer this is to compare the two states of mind. The one with the religion or god effect will begin to see some version of divine subjectivity overlaying reality. For example, if his god was of the forest, that god could be in any tree or behind any bush. This would add something extra to his awareness beyond the cause and effect of the sensory systems.


    You need to develop this and show how "something extra" would be added. Basically what you have is that the religious person would miss the material cause and effect because he would be looking for a divine cause and effect. This would be a selective disadvantage. Anything that interferes with correctly perceiving the objective physical world is going to be, in the long run, disadvantageous.


    For instance, if you have a religious person thinking gods set fires, then that person is going to miss the correlation between lightning and fires, thus exposing himself to being caught in a prairie fire after a thunderstorm.


    Let me throw out an alternative evolutionary scenario:


    This one is based on the existence of deity. It relies upon the fact that any supernatural being is going to have to communicate with humans thru their material brains. So, a new variation appears with a new set of neural pathways such that they can receive communication from deity. Call it a "deity detecting module" in the brain, and it is genetically based.


    This module has immediate selective advantages:

    1. A source of information not available to the senses of the individual: "there's a large predator in the tall grass over there; unless you change your direction it will see you and eat you."

    2. A source of support in the face of mental anguish such as grief, depression, loss, etc. Instead of being incapacitated by these emotions, and thus less able to cope with new problems, a person with the module is more functional.

    3. There may be other selective advantages, but let's work with these two.


    So now the module spreads by normal natural selection. Because of the social nature of humans, people without the module can also reap the benefits of those with the module, thus slowing penetration. There may also be linked benefits to not having the module. At any rate, the module today is not fixed in the population, but has 90% penetrance. That explains the 10% of people who are atheists.

  7. This is disputed, the main stream school of thought says this is sampling bias, not a true indication of declining dinosaurs...


    You are going to have to document that "main stream school of thought". As far as I know, the "main stream" is that 1) dino populations were declining in numbers of individuals and species but 2) the meteor killed the rest. As an example: http://www.unmuseum.org/deaddino.htm


    Notice that Horner is one of those documenting the decline; I doubt he and others are going to fail to rule out sampling bias.


    There were almost certainly world wide fires set by reentering debris around the world but global winter is the key i think.


    There perhaps were fires set around the world, but that is not the same as "fire storm".


    I'm not so sure it really matters, a comet of sufficient size would have the same effects as a meteor.


    Probably, but a comet comes in many smaller pieces spread out in space. Remember, most of a comet is ice and other non-rock materials. They don't have high levels of iridium. So the high levels of iridium in the K-T boundary strata, the shocked quartz crystals in the Atlantic, and the Chicxulub crator all refute the comet and support the meteor.


    I think we can only say the ancestors of modern shrews survived, we have no idea if these creatures were as specialized as modern shrews.


    But the ancestors were the same size as shrews, right? And your argument was based on size.


    Elephants do not eat tons of food a day, nor do they have to eat every day to survive, my point was that a larger animal with a slow metabolism is not as vulneralbe as a small fast metabolism animal.


    You are correct; elephants eat 300 - 750 pounds per day. But they do need to eat nearly every day. http://science.jrank.org/pages/2425/Elephant-Habitat-food.html http://www.mce.k12tn.net/animals/elephant.htm


    They also need considerable amounts of water.


    Elephants do not have a "slow" metabolism. Nor are they very well insulated. In these regards they would be similar to the large dinos with their warm-blooded metabolism but no insulating feathers or fur.


    The point is that, altho smaller warm-blooded animals need more food per body weight than larger animals, the absolute amount of that food is much smaller. A shrew ancestor weighing 20 grams may require 40 grams of food per day, 200% of its body weight. But an elephant requires 159 kg or 159,000 grams per day. The same amount of food that an elephant eats in a day will keep a shrew ancestor alive for 3,975 days.


    Again, this is misleading, larger animals are less vulnerable than smaller ones to cold all things being equal.


    But all things are not equal. Leaving out the "dormant", smaller animals can find shelter easier than larger animals. Shrews today dig burrows, and the ancestors probably did as well. That provides shelter. They are often better insulated -- compare elephants to shrews. While larger animals can go a few days without food, their overall requirements for food are much are larger. A shrew can scavenge the 40 gm of food it needs per day and not miss a day, while that 40 gm is literally nothing to the requirement of an elephant. A fire that sweeps over the landscape will still leave small amounts of untouched vegetation. Of course, since shrews live on insects and worms, many of which are underground, it's even better for the shrew.



    Birds, 0. For mammals, 1. For reptiles, it looks like 5-10. Same for amphibians. Insects, one genus.


    You are arguing estivation, but the percent of species that estivate today, even in hot climates, is much smaller that the percentage that survived the KT extinction. And, of course, no bird species is known to estivate.


    you are mistaken that estivation would not have helped, animals already in estivation (and around the world right now millions of animals already are) would have been protected.


    Are you sure they would have been "protected"? How long would the winter have lasted? Not just a few days, but years. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100304142242.htm


    " In both cases, new climate model simulations show that the effects would last for more than a decade." http://www.eoearth.org/article/Nuclear_winter


    If anything estivation is more flexible than hibernation but both types of animals will indeed go into their respective modes of survival if the conditions developed that threaten their survival. But at any one time around the earth there are animals that are both in hibernation and estivation. So your point of a trigger is meaningless.


    Is the trigger only conditions, or is it tied to seasons? For hibernation, much of the trigger is the length of the day, which causes the production of a protein Hibernation Induction Trigger. Is estivation similar?


    Also, if estivation happens when the animal is not prepared for it with adequate fat reserves, won't it die if kept in estivation too long?


    If anything the late Cretaceous was so warm that hibernating was probably an unusual mode of behavior for animals, estivation was probably more common due to the world wide warm climate


    The Cretaceous up until about 400 ky prior to the KT impact was mild instead of hot:



    What I am reading is that the KT event caused the widespread death of plants in both the ocean and the land. The food chain collapsed. Larger herbivores would have died without enough plant material. The carnivores followed. Since most dinos and large aquatic reptiles were close to the top of the food chain, they starved. Smaller animals that had a more diverse diet, including a few species of birds, were able to survive.

  8. It's worth noting that while science cannot explain everything, simply making stuff up cannot viably explain anything.


    That isn't what we are talking about. People make stuff up in science, too. Actually, come to think of it, every hypothesis is initially made up. And some of them do indeed explain things.


    No, what we are talking about are the limitations of science. Science is a limited form of knowing. It restricts itself to part of the total of human experience and knowledge. By doing that, science is very reliable in its area, but the price is that science doesn't cover everything.


    Because science is so reliable in its limited area, there is always the temptation to extend science beyond its limitations.

  9. The statement about the statistical likelihood of fossil survival (or any other process) after the sudden extinction (or ending) is statistically valid and covered in any elementary stats text. Furthermore, the event itself would have destroyed much of the fossil evidence since it seems likely that a world-wide fireball incinerated most of the biosphere .


    We seem to be talking about 2 different things. The layers of sediment are undisturbed up until the layer at the KT boundary. Above that boundary there are no dino fossils.


    However, below that boundary several paleontologists have done biostratigraphic studies on the numbers of dinos of various species. This is a common practice in paleontology. What they found is that the absolute numbers of individuals in dino species was declining for up to 10 million years before the impact. What is more, the number of species was also declining as several species went extinct before the impact.


    Most commentary of the impact has a fireball that incinerated the biosphere in most of what is now North and South America. However, the biosphere in Asia was not touched by the fireball. Instead, there would have been global winter from all the dust, smoke, and ash kicked up by the impact.

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    This it just my opinion I believe that there was no comet.


    Actually, the KT event was a meteor. There is considerable evidence -- including the crator at Chixulub in Mexico -- to refute this claim.


    I believe they all evolved into what they are today but very slowly.


    Again, nearly every genera of birds went extinct at the KT boundary. The birds we have today are the descendents of the few surviving genera.


    I believe we still are evolving and that this global warming stuff is just the earth changing because once upon a time there was only 1 contenant and most of it was ice


    This is very off topic. Way back a billion years ago the earch was indeed covered by ice. However, there have been several continents now for over 200 million years and we have had much colder climates no more than 12,000 years ago. Are you thinking of the Ice Age?


    I think we should be breathing more co2 to feed the trees.


    You put out more CO2 in your car a day than you can ever breathe out of your body. The idea of putting out more CO2 to feed the trees doesn't work. There is only so much CO2 that each tree can absorb. If we put out more CO2 than that, then it goes into the atmosphere and acts as an agent to trap heat on the planet -- which is what is causing global warming. It is too much CO2 already that is causing global warming.


    But again, that is off topic, so let's stick to why the birds survived the KT extinction, OK?

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    In a blizzard with no shelter a shrew would die far quicker than an elephant and an elephant or elephant sized creature could live far longer than a shrew sized animal even with the same metabolism which shrews obviously do not have. A shrew dies with in hours of not feeding, and elephant lives for days maybe weeks with no food and can recover when food becomes available, the shrews are all dead... Birds die in the winter of freezing quite often, some times falling from the sky in large numbers, small birds are more vulnerable than large birds...


    We need to look at this more carefully. Obviously, shrews did survive the KT event, as did other small mammals. Instead, it was the larger dinos that died.


    Your premise seems to be "no shelter". But smaller animals have a much better chance of finding shelter. They are smaller and the shelter is thus smaller. And, altho they eat more per body weight, the absolute amount of food they need per day is much smaller. Compare what an elephant and shrew needs per day. An elephant needs tons, a shrew an ounce.


    So no, in the type of global winter envisioned after the KT impact, the larger animals are more vulnerable: less likely to find shelter, more surface area to radiate body heat, more food required. That is why the larger species died out at the KT and the smaller species survived.


    An amazing number and diverse species of animals survived the K/T boundary (many plants didn't make it either)


    A very small number of species survived; that's why it is a mass extinction. I would agree that it seems the burrowers had an advantage; that seems to be what happened with birds. Also species that could go into hibernation -- such as some species of turtles -- also had an advantage. However, estivation would not have helped since that takes heat, and the events after the KT were global winter. Not the right signals to put the animal into estivation.


    BTW, it's not really "pre-adaption" as evolutionists use the term. It's luck.

  10. "The battalion had come back from Blanc-Mont ridge. No, the battalion was still up there. But anyway, oh hell, let me get this straight. A hundred and thirty-four of us had come back from Blanc-Mont ridge. We had gone up a full-strength battalion, a thousand strong."


    Sgt. Elton E. Mackin, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. The attack was Nov. 1, 1918

  11. a member of species taking care of another member's well being at the expense of it's own benefit, health, or even life, is a destructive trait to the first member..


    why haven't sacrificial help in all it's forms die out? how did it escape natural selection?


    You are speaking about altruism. This has been extensively studied because it does, on the surface, present a problem for natural selection. However, this was first solved for social insects and the solution is general enough to apply to other altruistic situations.


    As Sisyphus has pointed out, it is a about alleles (forms of genes). Every diploid organism has 2 alleles for each gene -- one from the father and one from the mother. But this means that you share alleles with your parents, your siblings, and your offspring. In fact, you share half your alleles with each. So, if your sacrifice allows 2 of any of these -- parents, siblings, or offspring -- to survive, then the number of your alleles stays the same in the population. If you save more, then the number of your alleles actually increases.


    So, if you have an allele for self-sacrifice, that allele can increase in the population as long as the possessors of the allele save more individuals with that allele than is lost when the possessors die.


    This works best when the population is a small clan, tribe, or group where all the members are some form of relative. That means you have many copies of your alleles in the population. Saving members of the population ensures the propagation of that allele.


    Now, like many evolutionary traits, humans have extrapolated altruism that works for relatives to a larger group of people who are not related. Thus we have military personnel sacrificing themselves for a nation -- most of whom are not their relatives. Or people sacrificing themselves for a religious group or some other ideal.

  12. I think you are making the common mistake of assuming spacetime to be some sort of tangible substance. It's not. It's just a word we use to help aid our understanding... essentially a manifold which we can use in our calculations when we are mathematically modeling the universe, but it is not something which itself has any physical or temporal properties.


    iNow, could a "mathematically modeling of the universe" cause photons to travel a different path? Remember Eddington's experiment with the path of light during the solar eclipse in 1919? The photons were on one path until they entered the spacetime around the sun and that curved them to a different path. Could "just a word" result in clocks keeping different time in high earth orbit from those on the ground? These data show that spacetime does indeed have physical and temporal properties. As just another example, the expansion of spacetime stretches the wavelength of light. That is a physical property.

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    Yes, I read the whole link. My point remains. Let's move on. You're basically trolling now a third thread with your semantic quibbles.


    See above. I am talking data, not semantics. What you are doing with the references is trying to use philosophy to argue against data. Not very scientific. Notice that both references are older than the one I provided. In science, data changes our ideas.


    We are still faced with the problem that all the "something from nothing" that has been observed has occurred in an existing spacetime. Something that is real and exerts real physical and temporal effects. Can you get a spacetime from "nothing" (the absence of a spacetime)? So far, no one knows.

  13. Thanks for the link. I find it interesting that it actually reinforces my central point. It does not rebut it as you've implied.


    You didn't go on to read the articles in the special edition, did you? No, you cherry-picked.


    Here is the first paragraph of the first article:

    "Traditionally, space was merely a threedimensional (3D) static stage where the cosmic drama played out over time. Einstein’s theory of general relativity (1) replaced this concept with 4D spacetime, a dynamic geometric

    entity with a life of its own, capable of expanding, fluctuating, and even curving into black holes." Measuring Spacetime: From the Big Bang

    to Black Holes


    Now, iNow, would you like to tell us how you measure something that is not tangible?


    I think you are making the common mistake of assuming spacetime to be some sort of tangible substance. It's not.


    Einstein's equations allowed us to to describe mathematically that tangible substance that is spacetime.


    From the second article:


    "More than 80 years later, the strange fabric that makes up our universe is more important than ever. Scientists have been devising test after test in attempts to trip up Einstein’s description of the nature of space and time, and so far, all have confirmed the strange picture. The fabric of spacetime is

    real, and scientists can see it ripple and twist." The Intelligent Noncosmologist’s Guide to Spacetime


    Do you still want to claim that the series of articles supports your position that spacetime is intangible?

  14. From Merriam-Webster: "Devise: 1 : invent, 2: plot". You are postulating that a non-conscious entity can "devise", and that evolution has a "specific function or end."


    That part of the definition does not apply. Altho, come to think of it, Darwinian selection has invented, and evolutionary biologists do refer to evolution as "inventing" structures.


    No, I am not saying that evolution has a "specific function or end". I am saying that natural selection has a short term goal: designing the population to fit the current environment. Don't put words into my mouth. Evolution and natural selection are not synonymous. Nor is there an specific short term goal as getting a specific design.


    You keep insisting on using terms that, at least to me (and I think to most others here) imply the action of an intelligence. To design (v) requires planning, a consciously thought-out series of steps.


    I am asking you to shed your implications; they are erroneous. Design does not mandate an intelligence. Look at what natural selection IS. As you noted, it is an algorithm. That is, it is a series of steps that, if followed by a servile dunce, is guaranteed to yield a result. In this case the guaranteed result of natural selection is design.


    NS results in structures, but not designs.


    And you are seriously going to try to tell people that an eye is a structure and not a design? Riiiiggghht. Are you then going to try to sell them a bridge? Perhaps you will try Dawkins' approach and try to use the word "designoid". Instead I am asking you to do what Darwin did: face the problem squarely. Living organisms have designs in them. How did those designs get there? Are they the result of being manufactured by an intelligent entity? Or are they the result of an algorithm? They are the result of an algorithm.


    To me, the word "design" necessarily implies a conscious, intelligent "designer".


    Then shed your preconceptions. That is what you are supposed to do when doing science. Is that "necessarily" really necessary. NO! You seem intent on insisting otherwise, and I am baffled as to why. You are conflating "design" with structure.


    Similarly, although we humans can program a genetic algorithm and use an analog of natural selection (by definition, it is artificial selection) to design an end result, it is the fact that a conscious, presumably intelligent human is using selection as a tool that justifies use of the verb "design." The algorithm itself does not "design", although it may generate useful structure.


    Sorry, but the algorithm DOES design. When an intelligence designs, he knows exactly what each part is for in the overall design, does he not? Whoever heard of a watchmaker who doesn't know how the watch works? But when humans use Darwinian selection to design (and natural and artificial selection are just aspects of Darwinian selection), they don't know how the design works. What's more, structures are not all that result. Instead, one result is a program that can beat the human checkers champ at checkers. The program has whole sections of code that the human who set up the Darwinian selection cannot figure out what it does. Or in another example there is a circuit that can discriminate between verbal commands. What's more, the people using Darwinian selection speak of the algorithm as doing the designing:

    "So it's not told anything about what's good and what's bad or how it achieves the behavior. Evolution just plays around making changes, and if the changes produce an improvement, then fine. It doesn't matter whether it's chang-ing the circuit design or using just about any weird, subtle bit of physics that might be going on. The only thing that matters to evolution is the overall behavior. This means you can explore all kinds of ways of building things that are completely be-yond the scope of conventional methods. I allow evolution to write all the design rules." Brian Thompson in Evolving A Conscious Machine BY Gary Taubes Discover 19: 72-79, July 1998


    Considering the abominable percentage of the population that believes in Ignorant Drivel, I think it is foolish to ignore them.


    I am not saying "ignore them". Listen carefully: I am saying do not let them define the terms or the debate.


    I think it is a very bad idea to adopt the terms that IDers use, while giving them different meanings.


    It is the IDers that have changed the meaning. You are letting IDers adopt the terms scientists use and give them different meanings. Why is it OK for IDers to do that but we must not insist on the correct meanings? As I said, and you agree: "design" has an implicit prepositional phrase after it: "by an intelligent entity". You have gone so far as to say this prepositional phrase is "necessary". But it is not. Darwin didn't think it was necessary. Neither do I. You can have design without an intelligent entity. You can have design by an algorithm.


    Far from it. I reject your misleading use of the term "design", not the fact of evolution and natural selection. Natural selection results in structure, not design.


    Now who is changing definitions? You say sedimentary rock has structure. But that is not at all the same as an eye, is it? Or an ear, or a placenta, or any of the other thousands of designs that make up living organisms.


    Most of us, both scientists and general population, consider the term "design" to require planning and intelligence.


    Then it is time to face reality and realize that this is not the case. Isn't that what science is supposed to do: reality? Here you want to cling to an error: design requires intelligence.


    As far as I can tell, you alone want to redefine it.


    LOL! Not at all. I told you to read Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea. Dennett will introduce you to others that have looked at NS this way. I have quoted other scientific articles where Darwinian selection is viewed as a designer. Then, of course, there is always Darwin. And, of course, there is Dawkins who also sees this as design. He coined the term "designoid" because he makes the same mistake you do: design must mean an intelligence. So he used "designoid" for those designs in living organisms that are made by natural selection and not an intelligence.


    Or to put it another way, I am insisting on ascribing the accepted definitions to the words I use.


    That's the point: they are not the accepted definitions. You have added an unspoken prepositional phrase and then you try to tell us it is part of the definition.


    You haven't shown me any common definition that supports your reformulation of the terms.


    Sure I did. You just used another common definition of "design". But that doesn't negate 2c.


    You cannot tell what "fitness" is until you look at the success of a particular phenotype in the population.


    Kind of sidestepped my argument, didn't you? First you start out claiming that "fitness is the degree of relative reproductive success". I point out to you that this is not the case, that reproductive success is just a means of measuring fitness. Fitness is not reproductive success, but can be measured by reproductive success. Then you try to come back and say the same thing in a different way, ignoring my arguments. The phenotype is "fit" as the phenotype. Reproductive success is one way of identifying what phenotypes are fit.


    But notice that identifying fitness is not always retroactive. The reason it is difficult to predict fitness in advance is because the environment is usually too complex. But when we do know the environment well, what designs are going to be "fit" can be predicted in advance. This was done in this study:

    Evaluation of the rate of evolution in natural populations of guppies (Poecilia reticulata). Reznick, DN, Shaw, FH, Rodd, FH, and Shaw, RG. Science 275:1934-1937, 1997. The lay article is Predatory-free guppies take an evolutionary leap forward, pg 1880.


    The researchers predicted -- in advance -- what phenotype the population would evolve by natural selection.


    They are structures that evolved. They are not "designs": they were not "designed."


    Now who is stretching definitions? Remember, the examples I gave have a purpose/function. The examples of structure you gave me -- such as layers in sedimentary rock -- do not. If we are looking at the definintions of "design" as a noun, we come to this: "5 a : an underlying scheme that governs functioning" Doesn't an eye, ear, legs, blood clotting system fit this? If not, why not? Here you are confusing the verb of "design" with the noun. If the entity does not result from the verb -- with your addition of an intelligent agent -- then the noun doesn't apply. You are obfuscating the language.


    Genetic drift is not natural selection, true: instead of selection based upon survival/reproductive fitness, you have selection based on random chance.


    LOL! Which means that such a process will not give you eyes, ears, etc. These cannot arise from chance! You were trying to claim that designs could arise this way. You keep ducking that they cannot.


    Technically, NS by itself does not produce eyes, blood clotting systems, etc. either: for that, you need descent with variation.


    LOL! Do you realize that "descent with modification" is natural selection? Remember that natural selection is a two-step process? Remember that natural selection requires inheritance? "descent with variation" is natural selection, not something different.


    Yep, positive. Considering who is pushing "design" here, and who objects, I think it clear that the stealth IDer is not me.


    LOL! Nice try. Remember, I am saying that design arises from an unintelligent process. ID doesn't say that. It is you that is using the standard ID argument: design requires intelligence; natural selection cannot produce design.


    I said that "individuals with a useful variation benefit" is a tautology. The variation is useful because they benefit: they benefit because it was useful. If they did not benefit, it would not have been a useful variation, and vice versa. The problem is that not all variations are obviously "useful".


    Let's remember what you said and the context: "I have no problem with the quote: it means only that where there is a "useful" variation, individuals with that variation benefit -- which is what "useful" means in this context. It is a tautology."


    Now, what quote are you referring to? A quote from Darwin describing natural selection. So what did Darwin say again?

    "If, during the long course of ages and under varying conditions of life, organic beings vary at all in the several parts of their organization, and I think this cannot be disputed; if there be, owing to the high geometric powers of increase of each species, at some age, season, or year, a severe struggle for life, and this certainly cannot be disputed; then, considering the infinite complexity of the relations of all organic beings to each other and to their conditions of existence, causing an infinite diversity in structure, constitution, and habits, to be advantageous to them, I think it would be a most extraordinary fact if no variation ever had occurred useful to each beings welfare, in the same way as so many variations have occured useful to man. But if variations useful to any organic being do occur, assuredly individuals thus characterized will have the best chance of being preserved in the struggle for life; and from the strong principle of inheritance they will will tend to produce offspring similarly characterized. This principle of preservation, I have called, for the sake of brevity, Natural Selection." [Origin, p 127 6th ed.]


    Nowhere did Darwin state "individuals with a useful variation benefit". You made up that tautology.


    If the variation does not have an effect on reproductive success, it will not be selected. Other than that, the bottom line is that it does not much matter what the variation is. Whether or not it was beneficial can really be determined only in retrospect.


    Again, the result of selection is an effect on reproductive success. It's not that a variation has an effect on reproductive success. Rather, as Darwin pointed out, the effect is on the performance of the individual in the competition for scarce resources. The result of doing better in the competition is increased reproductive success. The selection comes first, then the reproductive success. You are having the reverse: reproductive success then selection. Look at all the equations in population genetics: first you have selection, then changes in allele frequency due to differential reproduction.


    As I pointed out, in many, many studies the "benefit" is determined without reference to reproductive success. The Grants determined the benefit of larger beaks in a drought in the Galapagos to the ability to crack larger seeds for food. In the peppered moth studies, Kettering determined the benefit of coloration to different predation rates.


    Again, I suggest that the term "design" carries conotations that are the opposite of what we intend.


    And again, I say discard the connotations. The term is fine; we just need to get rid of the connotations.


    The problem is not in the way that evolution and natural selection work: it is in your insistence on using terms that imply the action of an intelligence, like "design", "purpose", and "goal."


    The problem isn't the terms, but your insistence on tacking the action of an intelligence to them.

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    But it can appear to. For example, due to the inertia of the process, populations retain some adaptations to past environments -- environments that have a good chance of occurring again.


    Can you give me some examples in evolutionary history where this happened? I can't think of one.


    Remember, "environment" to an evolutionary biologist means everything that interacts with the organism. That is so complex that I can't see one happening again.


    Most people, and I think you here, use "environment" to mean "climate". But even here I don't see too many examples. How many times did the last series of Ice Ages oscillate? Yet we don't see the major mammals oscillating as the climate grew warmer and colder. Instead, we see species of mammoths either 1) going extinct in the warm periods or 2) tracking the environment by moving north or south. In the new glaciations we see new species of mammoths evolve, not a species evolving to warm weather and then evolving back again.

  15. I think you are making the common mistake of assuming spacetime to be some sort of tangible substance. It's not.


    I'm afraid it is you making the common mistake that spacetime is not tangible. It is. See: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/296/5572/1417 Science May 14, 2002

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    [Many people ask "why is there something instead of nothing?" Many people assert that "Nothing can come from nothing, therefore god did it."


    The video explains why this is specious, and how our understanding of QM shows that something comes from nothing all of the time.


    Not exactly. Remember, virtual particles do come from "something": spacetime.


    The reason the "Nothing can come from nothing, therefore god did it" is specious is because the First Law of Thermodynamics (matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed) applies within the universe. It says nothing about getting a universe to begin with. Therefore you can't use the argument because it does not apply.

  16. If CD is humane for any rodent,


    It is not human for "any rodent". Only for rodents under 200 gm.


    why wouldn't it be for all of them unless it were an issue of being able to do it properly (and possibly without injury to the human handler)? I'd suspect difficulty simply from personal experience.


    I suspect that, as size increases, it becomes difficult to break the neck "instantly".


    Anyhow, as I said, this wasn't in a laboratory setting, and CD is pretty humane compared to python constriction (and *very* humane compared to what large monitor lizards do to their prey).


    No argument there. It is even more humane than hypobaric chambers used to kill unclaimed dogs and cats.


    I'm pretty sure it's the USDA that regulates them, though I don't know when it started - I've only had to deal with them for 6 years or so. I poked around the website and couldn't find much. I do know that they're now regulated - I've got to go to training, we've got IACUC numbers on all the cages (even captive-bred herps and fish).


    I found sites where herpetologists were recommending such training and supervision. But I have yet to find where USDA actually regulates captive-bred herps and fish. They do regulate catching them in the wild.


    I have no doubt that your IACUC requires this. However, it may well be that there is no "regulation" as such, but a general acceptance among IACUCs that it is a good idea to supervise ectoderms and bring them under the IACUC umbrella. As I say, scientific societies that deal with ectoderms have websites that recommend this.

  17. Also, I agree with ydoaps. "The work of the god" means nothing to me, unless you explain what you mean by the word "god," and what kind of work you're talking about.


    (Not trying to be difficult, just showing some problems with the question.)


    I submit that you are deliberately obfuscating the question. "Miracle" as most people use it are events that contradict the regular way the universe works or are even a violation of the normal way the universe works. The Parting of the Red Sea or the raising of Lazarus are miracles because they go against the normal way things work.


    Now, we don't require precise definition of "god" to know what is generally meant by the word: a deity that exists outside the universe, created the universe, can intervene within the universe, and is very powerful and knowing.


    Since science deals only with intersubjective evidence, most "miracles" lie outside the realm of science. They are not repeatable and they left no evidence for us to study today. They seem to violate currently accepted theories, but we certainly cannot use those theories to say the event did not happen. We are saved from having to modify or discard the theory becuase the event is 1) far back in time, 2) poorly documented, or 3) both.


    In the cases where "miracles" would leave evidence that persists to today then yes, we can test them. The "miracle" of the Genesis Flood as a world-wide event can be tested, has been tested, and has been falsified.

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    I too cannot answer the poll without clear definitions of magic or miracles.


    But I use this as reference. Magic is perceived as an action done by man to produce a certain outcome.


    Miracles are perceived as an action done by a being who is the divine all knowing all powerful creator of everything to produce a certain outcome.


    Very good! I like this. Yes, I agree that magic is something done by men while miracles are done by deity. However, by your definition, practically anything humans do is "magic". After all, driving my car to get home is "an action done by man to produce a certain outcome". :) So we need something else.


    So magic must involve entities/forces that are not material.


    Does the voodoo doll or witchcraft use forces that we can measure and study scientifically? No.


    I would say "yes". We can follow a practioner of voodoo and correlate the actions of the practioner with results. Therefore we can test whether the voodoo doll does have an effect on the person it represents. So we can test whether magic is real. We don't need to know the actual forces, just like we don't really know what gravity is, but we can test that it is real.


    Science can only say that they have not proven the existence of magic because there is no way to measure the forces involved.


    But there is. Back to your voodoo doll. I would say that pins of different diameter would have different effects, right? So we could measure the forces involved by having the person describe the differences in pain. So yes, we can prove that specific forms of magic do not exist by the scientific method.


    Science has tried to measure forces similar to magic in the form of measuring mental powers like telekinesis.


    And what has been the result?

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    Scientifically speaking, prayer was measured. Why? because they scientists got grants for it, obviously.


    Actually, the initial study on IP --Byrd's -- did not have a "real" grant. Instead, Byrd got a very small amount for "research" as part of his residency in internal medicine. The study was done on a shoestring budget.


    Scientifically speaking, prayer completely failed the measurement tests. Not only was it shown to have no effect, it was shown to sometimes have ADVERSE effects.


    That's not what the literature says.


    14. Byrd, RC, Positive theraputic effects of intercessory prayer in a coronary care population. Southern Med Jour 1988 81(7):826-29. http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/smj1.html http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/smj.doc

    15. WS Harris, M Gowda, JW Kolb, CP Strychacz, JL Vacek, PG Jones, A Forker, JH O'Keefe, BD McCallister, A randomized, controlled trial of the effects of remote, intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients admitted to the coronary care unit. Arch Intern Med. 1999;159:2273-2278 http://archinte.ama-assn.org/issues/v159n19/rfull/ioi90043.html

    15. http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/health/newsid_1627000/1627662.stm A study at North Carolina

    17. http://health.medscape.com/viewarticle/405270 IP for infertile women

    18: Dusek JA, Sherwood JB, Friedman R, Myers P, Bethea CF, Levitsky S, Hill PC,Jain MK, Kopecky SL, Mueller PS, Lam P, Benson H, Hibberd PL. Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP): study designand research methods.Am Heart J. 2002 Apr;143(4):577-84.

    19: Leibovici L. Effects of remote, retroactive intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients withbloodstream infection: randomised controlled trial.BMJ. 2001 Dec 22-29;323(7327):1450-1.

    20. http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/324/7344/1037

    21. Herbert Benson, MD,a,4 Jeffery A. Dusek, PhD,a,4 Jane B. Sherwood, RN,y Peter Lam, PhD, Charles F. Bethea, MD,b William Carpenter, MDiv,c Sidney Levitsky, MD,d Peter C. Hill, MD, Donald W. Clem, Jr, MA,f Manoj K. Jain, MD, MPH,g David Drumel, MDiv,g,h Stephen L. Kopecky, MD, Paul S. Mueller, MD,j Dean Marek,k Sue Rollins, RN, MPH,b and Patricia L. Hibberd, MD, PhD Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) in cardiac bypass patients: A multicenter randomized trial of uncertainty and certainty of receiving intercessory prayer. American Heart Journal, Volume 151, Number 4, 934-942, 2006.


    The last paper is the one where you are getting the claims that prayer was 1) ineffective and 2) harmful. However, when you actually read the paper you find that is not the case. Instead, people who knew they were being prayed for had more complications. This is explained by psychological reaction, not prayer.


    All the papers I referenced show an effect of intercessory prayer. BTW, you might be interested in the Cochrane Review of the Byrd paper and others preceding it. They found no methodological flaws and found the statistics "robust".


    Personal prayer has universally been found to have beneficial effects. Since these effects are similar to those of people who engage in meditation, the hypothesis is that the effects are due to biofeedback from the meditation.

  18. I truly believe that Logic can come to a truth.


    Logic alone cannot come to a truth. What you also need is experience of the universe. Science has found that many things that should be "logically" true simply aren't.


    I just don't believe science will be able to come to a truth until it is willing to engage in the fact that what people are sensing as a spiritual presence and supernatural phenomenon is real and tangible! If science always discards it as myth than science in no way can prove it wrong otherwise but each has a right to their belief.


    Let's try to clarify this. Science deals only with intersubjective experience: experience that is the same for everyone under approximately the same circumstances. Personal experience of deity is NOT intersubjective. Therefore it is outside the domain of science. So it is not science that reject the experiences. Science is agnostic about them and can't comment. It is atheists claiming to use science that reject the experiences as myth or otherwise invalid. Science gets a bad rap from atheists misusing science for their own belief.


    I personally believe that there is a science behind the super natural that one day will be discovered.


    If that is so, then wouldn't that show deity not to exist? That is, aren't you supposing that science will find an explanation other than deity for those phenomenon?


    However, what you are engaging in now is bad theology. What you are saying is that deity is to be found only where science cannot explain. Standard Judeo-Christian theology says that what science does explain -- the natural -- is just as much due to the "supernatural" as what science does not explain. I suggest you read the Fontispiece to Darwin's Origin of Species to find an excellent summary of this theological position.


    I understand science is in a box and if something is outside of the box than it is discarded as hokey


    That is not the case. If something is outside the limited domain of science, it is simply outside that domain and science cannot comment. What you are doing is mistaking the misuse of science by some individuals/groups for science itself.


    I believe as of now what I am saying can stand in the balance of not being able to be proved logically true or untrue and as science stands something must be proved true or otherwise discarded as false is actually sciences very own limitation to coming to truth!


    That would be if that were how science works. But science actually works the opposite of how you say. Unless an idea is falsified, it is possible. It is impossible to "prove" by either inductive or deductive logic. However, you can absolutely disprove by deductive logic. Therefore what science does is disprove, or falsify, hypotheses/theories. If we can't disprove it, we can't discard it.


    Also, although science uses both inductive and deductive logic, science knows that logic itself is insufficient to either "prove" or disprove. The essence of science is to test our ideas -- including those ideas that result from logic -- against the actual physical universe. If the universe shows the ideas to be wrong -- no matter how good the logic -- then the idea is wrong. Period.

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    How long you think it would take me to find the methodological flaws in those, or the alternative explanations which make more sense?


    Go ahead. I have been looking for the methodological flaws for a number of years now and haven't found them. I also haven't found an alternative hypothesis to IP to explain the results.


    Except, that wasn't the only thing I cited, nor is the "atheist community" some homogeneous block.


    What you cited were incorrect criticisms of some of the earlier papers that I referenced. As I noted, because of the limitations of studies on IP, negative results don't mean anything: there are too many factors at work to cover up a real effect. This is a common thing in science, which is why negative results are so seldom reported.


    The atheist community -- particularly the online atheist community -- has been very united in criticism of IP studies. Look at any of the major atheist websites, such as http://www.infidels.org, and you will find them. Ironically, their objection to IP studies is based not only on invalid criticism of the methodology, but also on a misunderstanding of what science can test. The atheist community, like you here, are assuming that an effect of IP automatically means the existence of deity/supernatural. If you had actually read any of the IP papers, you would have found this:


    "Neither this study nor that of Byrd provided any mechanistic explanation for the possible benefits of intercessory prayer. However, others have speculated as to what they might be10; they generally fall into 2 broad categories: natural or supernatural explanations. The former explanation would attribute the beneficial effects of intercessory prayer to "real" but currently unknown physical forces that are "generated" by the intercessors and "received" by the patients; the latter explanation would be, by definition, beyond the ken of science. However, this trial was designed to explore not a mechanism but a phenomenon. Clearly, proof of the latter must precede exploration of the former. By analogy, when James Lind, by clinical trial, determined that lemons and limes cured scurvy aboard the HMS Salisbury in 1753, he not only did not know about ascorbic acid, he did not even understand the concept of a "nutrient." There was a natural explanation for his findings that would be clarified centuries later, but his inability to articulate it did not invalidate his observations.


    Although we cannot know why we obtained the results we did, we can comment on what our data do not show. For example, we have not proven that God answers prayer or that God even exists. It was intercessory prayer, not the existence of God, that was tested here." WS Harris, M Gowda, JW Kolb, CP Strychacz, JL Vacek, PG Jones, A Forker, JH O'Keefe, BD McCallister, A randomized, controlled trial of the effects of remote, intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients admitted to the coronary care unit. Arch Intern Med. 1999;159:2273-2278

  19. Or, I could just point you to where I've already demonstrated unequivocally that... Not only does prayer NOT work, but it is often detrimental.




    Your "unequivocal" is not as solid as you seem to think. There are several studies showing an effect of intercessory prayer. Not only that, but the study by Benson et al. did not show a detrimental effect of prayer.


    What you have done is read blurbs about the papers and not the papers themselves. Let me illustrate. The atheist community made a big deal about the Benson et al. paper, claiming that it definitively showed that intercessory prayer (IP) had no effect. What did the paper actually say?


    "Almost all subjects believed that friends, relatives, and/or members of their religious institution would be praying for them—group 1 (95.0%

    [574/604]), group 2 (96.8% [579/597]), and group 3 (96.0% [577/601]). "


    So already you have only 5% or less of people NOT receiving prayer.


    However, there was a detected effect of prayer:


    "Eighteen percent (109/604) in group 1 versus 13% (80/597) in group 2 (relative risk 1.18, 95% CI 1.03-1.35, P = .027) had at least one major

    event within 30 days of CABG."


    The prayer group had a decrease in major events that was significant at p <0.05 (p = 0.027).


    Finally, you need to read the Discussion of the paper:

    "Possible explanations for the lack of effect of intercessory prayer itself

    include the following. First, intercessory prayer may not be effective in reducing complications after CABG. Second, the magnitude of the reduction could be smaller than the 10% that our study was powered to detect. Third, the occurrence of any complication within 30 days of surgery may not be appropriate or relevant to the effects of intercessory prayer."


    That second one is the killer. In statistics there is a type II error -- failure to detect an effect that is actually there. You do a power analysis before you do the study to find the number of subjects you need to detect a difference. Here they did the calculations based on a 10% difference -- that means that 10% of the patients had to change.


    BUT, we saw that only 5% of patients were not receiving outside intercessory prayer. Thus, even if every one of those patients did better (or worse), it was not enough to be a large enough difference to be detectable in their study. The study was flawed.


    They chose CABG because there are a huge number of minor complications. But these minor complications do not threaten the health of the patient and all are easily treated and corrected. But there are a small number of major complications that are serious threats to life and health. As we saw above, the background rate for those in the non-prayer group was 18%. This was reduced to 13% in the IP group, which was a statistically significant difference.


    So, we are stuck with numerous studies that document an effect of IP. Does this mean the supernatural exists? We don't know. Remember what was tested: IP. The cause of an effect of IP was never tested.

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    I am going to assume that there is no way to do an unbiased study on the effects of prayer!How do you prove who ever is praying even believes?


    That's not the case. You can do a scientifically unbiased study on intercessory prayer. That is, you can do a randomized double-blind experiment. Several of these have been done. The problems arise not because of the supposed faith (or lack of it) of the intercessors, but because:


    1. You can't stop prayer for people in the control group. The patient himself, family, friends, churchmembers, etc. can/will be praying for him. What you are trying to deal with are a) the small number of patients who are not prayed for (evenly distributed in the 2 groups) and b) a possible effect of a small bit of additional prayer by the intercessors in the experimental group. All this tends to cover up any possible effect.


    2. Modern medicine is pretty good. So the number of instances where prayer would be needed to work where modern medicine would not are very small. Again, this tends to cover up any effect of IP. You need huge numbers of patients because you are trying to detect a very small difference.


    Both of these tend to cover up a possible effect and make it indetectable. That is why negative studies in this area (like so many other areas in science) don't tell you much and are not definitive. There are alternative hypotheses to explain a negative result. So that makes the studies finding an effect so noteworthy. And, despite iNow's assertion, there are a number of such studies:


    14. Byrd, RC, Positive theraputic effects of intercessory prayer in a coronary care population. Southern Med Jour 1988 81(7):826-29. http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/smj1.html http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/smj.doc

    15. WS Harris, M Gowda, JW Kolb, CP Strychacz, JL Vacek, PG Jones, A Forker, JH O'Keefe, BD McCallister, A randomized, controlled trial of the effects of remote, intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients admitted to the coronary care unit. Arch Intern Med. 1999;159:2273-2278 http://archinte.ama-assn.org/issues/v159n19/rfull/ioi90043.html

    15. http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/health/newsid_1627000/1627662.stm A study at North Carolina

    17. http://health.medscape.com/viewarticle/405270 IP for infertile women

    18: Dusek JA, Sherwood JB, Friedman R, Myers P, Bethea CF, Levitsky S, Hill PC,Jain MK, Kopecky SL, Mueller PS, Lam P, Benson H, Hibberd PL. Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP): study designand research methods.Am Heart J. 2002 Apr;143(4):577-84.

    19: Leibovici L. Effects of remote, retroactive intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients withbloodstream infection: randomised controlled trial.BMJ. 2001 Dec 22-29;323(7327):1450-1.

    20. http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/324/7344/1037

    21. Herbert Benson, MD, Jeffery A. Dusek, PhD, Jane B. Sherwood, RN, Peter Lam, PhD, Charles F. Bethea, MD,b William Carpenter, MDiv,c Sidney Levitsky, MD, Peter C. Hill, MD, Donald W. Clem, Jr, MA, Manoj K. Jain, MD, MPH, David Drumel, MDiv, Stephen L. Kopecky, MD, Paul S. Mueller, MD, Dean Marek, Sue Rollins, RN, MPH, and Patricia L. Hibberd, MD, PhD Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) in cardiac bypass patients: A multicenter randomized trial of uncertainty and certainty of receiving intercessory prayer. American Heart Journal, Volume 151, Number 4, 934-942, 2006.

  20. What would our view of the universe be if we had people viewing the universe from all over the place, as far away from earth as you can get, would something that simple change our current views. How do we empirically know?


    We can look at the universe from our view and build a good 3D picture of the universe. All the empirical data we have by observation says the universe is homogenous on large scales.


    Another thing is energy levels. Now I know in particle accelerators more juice is supposed to produce different interactions or even new physics. How can anyone really estimate what the universe would look like if it the size of a pea?


    For this one you need to probe the physics literature. Summaries of that literature indicate that we have a very good idea of the history of the universe from 10^-38 seconds to the present.


    So would it be a somewhat safe speculation that maybe some other form of matter could occur if we are dealing with so much mass, like the universe in total, would that be just a black hole, and why would it just be a BH and not something else, is that an effect of spacetime, or QM, or etc?


    When matter gets very dense, it gets very hot. So hot that matter cannot exist. It is all energy. That's why you can have "infinite" density. Remember, in the case of calling the universe a "black hole", we are inside it, not looking from the outside like we do with black holes formed from stellar collapses.


    I just don't see this as an end all by any means. I also do not think we can currently state how much and of what makes up the current universe in order to perform such a calculation. Last time I checked dark stuff was still a mystery meat,


    It is a mystery as to the identity of dark matter, but we know the quantity of it based upon the gravitational effect on matter that we can see (stars). "Dark matter" just means that it does not shine by its own light. Therefore we cannot see it at the distances we are looking -- other galaxies. But it's existence is inferred because of the effect on the motion of stars in those galaxies.


    Foodchain, a good place for you to start getting some answers to the questions is at the "Ask an Astronomer" website: http://www.astronomycafe.net/qadir/acosmexp.html

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    I just think that if its possible and its not proven false, then its still possible.


    Correct. Unless a hypothesis is falsified, it is possible.


    We cannot see the big bang, we do not know what happened with complete certainty. All we can say is that at the moment the universe is expanding, we can observe X numbers of years back and we cant see past radiation, we infer/extrapolate/assume from the expansion that at one point it was a singularity and at that point it began. This is not proven, only assumed.


    Not "assumed", but inferred. Trying to say "assumed" is a semantic way of trying to get rid of the evidence supporting the claim. Assumptions do not necessarily have evidence. There is considerable evidence to suppport the Big Bang theory. Enough that all rival theories have to have it look like the Big Bang from our perspective. The singularity comes from the definition of a singularity: a volume of space that is infinitely dense and of infinitely small volume. That is exactly what the Big Bang was.


    Further more, hubble volumes prevent us from seeing outside another "bubble" and we cannot know what's happening at every point in our universe at the moment.


    Here we have a real assumption: that there are "hubble volumes". Right now when we are talking about "our universe" we mean what we can observe. Bubble universe is one of many "metauniverse" theories.


    Again its assumed that the universe is uniform. We dont know whats out there, so we cannot say with certainty.


    That is a conclusion based upon observation. On large scales, the observation is that the universe is homogenous.


    What would it mean if a universe popped into existence in our own and we observed it?


    It would probably mean our universe gets destroyed! Remember, a universe is a spacetime, not just matter and energy. How can you have another spacetime pop into existence in our spacetime? Two spacetimes cannot coexist. One replaces the other.

  21. The word "nothing" is too extreme for my comfort. He used the term rhetorically. He should have said that something can come from "zero total energy". Or at least he should have explained in advance what he meant by "nothing". Scientists are supposed to be precise. Nothing is an absolute term, and I don't believe it ever existed.


    In terms of cosmology, "nothing" means no space, no time, no matter, no energy. IOW, the constituents of our universe.

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    i got the impression he was saying a flat universe means no energy was needed for it's creation and, i'm guessing, if you could somehow account for all the energy in the universe and add it all together it would still equal nothing?


    The NET energy of the universe = 0. That is, the positive energy of matter/energy = the "negative" energy of gravitation. At least, this was the case before the discovery of "dark energy" -- the accelerating expansion of the universe.


    In quantum mechanics, energy can be "borrowed" from the vacuum and particles come into existence for a very short time. The energy is then "paid back" and the particles disappear. It has been thought for at least 17 years (I read it in Paul Davies' The Matter Myth published in 1992) that the entire universe could be a quantum fluctuation and that the 13.4 billion age was just a "very short time" in this particular quantum field.


    The problem has always been that a vacuum is in an existing spacetime. We don't see "something from nothing" or have the mathematics to get "something from nothing" in the absence of a spacetime. So, how do you get a spacetime from nothing?

  22. Think of NS as a mathematical algorithm, and you will be right much more often.


    And I said originally (many posts back) that NS is an algorithm to get design. Very good! Yes, NS is an algorithm. Follow the steps and design is guaranteed! Maybe you did read Dennett after all.


    I think the term "design" by definition presupposes a conscious designer.


    It does not have to. From Merriam-Webster: "2c:to devise for a specific function or end" Nothing about consciousness here. An algorithm can (and does with NS) do the "devising". Here you are insisting on sticking with a preconceived idea. Discard that pre-Darwinian idea that design must mean an intelligent entity doing the designing.


    Considering the recent (and continuing) idiocy regarding "intelligent design", I prefer to avoid use of the term "design" when talking about anything other than the actions of intelligent, conscious beings.


    And here you are giving in to the IDers. I prefer to do good science and ignore what the IDers want to do. I refuse to let them dictate the terms I use.


    Thus, I would not say that river rocks are "designed" by the river, or that clouds are "designed" by the wind and atmosphere.


    And they are not. There is no specific "function or end" involved. But let's face it, eyes have a specific function: detection of visible light.


    Similarly, I will not say that organisms are "designed" by evolution.


    I said "Designed by natural selection." Evolution is more than natural selection. Also, some parts of organisms are NOT designed. They are the result of genetic drift or parts coded by genes that have a design in other parts of the organism but not there. Examples of the latter include male nipples and the boney spurs on the ankles of pandas.


    NS is no more an "entity" than the quadratic equation, unless you are considering abstractions to be entities. I cannot agree that either is an entity that is capable of design.


    We always consider abstractions to be entities. But in this case NS (or Darwinian selection) is a real entity. It produces real objects. And humans use NS (Darwinian selection) when the design problem is too tough for them. See Jr Koza, MA Keane, MJ Streeter, Evolving inventions. Scientific American, 52-59, Feb 2003 check out http://www.genetic-programming.com


    Basically, GDG, you have just made the basic claim of ID. That is the central claim of ID: that NS is incapable of design. What you try to do is say "there is no design", but that simply will not work. I suggest you read some history about this (but you did not read Dennett, did you?). Paley made the basic Argument from Design in his Natural Theology. Darwin knew that an acceptable theory of evolution was impossible unless there was a process that produced the designs in living organisms. Lamarck's attempt was use/disuse. Darwin's was NS. Take away NS as a means of producing design and you are saying that ID is correct.


    The point you are missing is that "fitting" also implies a conscious design, as if NS were a being that deliberately caused particular variations to occur, in order to actively adapt a species to its environment.


    Not at all. You are stuck in your pre-conception of the terms.


    "Fitness" in the evolutionary sense is a shorthand for "degree of relative reproductive success as a species",


    That is the result of fitness. Look how Darwin phrased it: "I think it would be a most extraordinary fact if no variation ever had occurred useful to each beings welfare, in the same way as so many variations have occured useful to man. But if variations useful to any organic being do occur, assuredly individuals thus characterized will have the best chance of being preserved in the struggle for life;" Because a variation is "fit", then the individual possessing it will have reproductive success. What you have done is turn NS around and put the cart before the horse. Because of the result, we have an objective means of measuring "fitness". Fitness is the ratio of the progeny actually produced to the progeny expected from Mendelian inheritance. This allows us to avoid the tautology: the fittest survive; we know the fittest because they survive.


    There is no designing.


    Then how do you get organs that have a function/purpose? How did legs for running, eyes for seeing, biochemical cascade for blood clotting, etc. arise? These are designs. If they did not come about by natural selection, how did they arise?


    Are you suggesting that evolution cannot occur by genetic drift?


    Look what I said again: "That is the reductionist definition of "changes in allele frequency through time". But that is NOT the essence of natural selection. After all, genetic drift will have some organisms reproducing more successfully and will dominate. "


    Changes in allele frequency through time is NOT the essence of natural selection. Genetic drift will do the same. But genetic drift does not produce eyes, blood clotting systems, placentas, etc. Stick to the conversation. Genetic drift can alter small populations. But the characteristics do not necessarily have anything to do with "fitness". Deleterious traits can be fixed by genetic drift. So, you tried to give a definition of NS which misses the essential features of NS. I called you on it.


    I have no problem with the quote: it means only that where there is a "useful" variation, individuals with that variation benefit -- which is what "useful" means in this context. It is a tautology.


    Are you sure you are not an IDer in disguise? This is another favorite IDer argument: NS is a tautology. But NS is not a tautology. You stated that "individuals with that variation benefit". How do they benefit? By doing better in the competition for scarce resources. Why do they do better? Because the variation is a better design for the purpose/function of getting scarce resources. Design.


    They reproduce more successfully only because we have defined "useful" to mean that,


    "We" haven't. You and a subset of molecular biologists have. I am saying that you (plural) are in error. Again, enhanced differential reproduction is a (just one of many) results of having that better design. But we haven't "defined" useful to mean that. In the work of the Grants on beak size in Galapagos finches, "useful" was not "defined" in terms of "reproduce more successfully". Instead, it was defined as better able to crack larger seeds. In the study on peppered moths, "useful" was "defined" in terms of being better able to avoid predators.


    No, there is no short term purpose. I'm not sure what parameters you are referring to, but in any population you will have diversity due to random mutation. Yes, random. The environment also changes, due to changes in climate, erosion, insolation, and the activities of other organisms, etc. If your random mutation is lethal, you die, and your mutation is not passed on. If your random mutation is not lethal, but not beneficial, it may persist for generations, but will not come to dominate. If your random mutation is beneficial, or the environment changes in such a way that suddenly the mutation is beneficial, then the percentage of the population carrying that mutation will increase, and come to dominate.


    Look what I bolded. Even you acknowledge that reproductive success is a result of "useful". The variation has to be useful for something other than just reproduction. Now some other points:


    1. In evolutionary biology "random" means "random with respect to the needs of the individual or population". In an environment getting warmer, just as many deer will be born with longer fur as shorter fur. But only the shorter fur is "useful". So you have selection of the animals with shorter fur.


    2. If the variation is neutral (not lethal or detrimental but not beneficial), it can still come to dominate. That is genetic drift. In fact, over time the variation has a 50% chance of being eliminated and a 50% chance of being fixed.


    3. The process you descibe is design. It is designing a population for that particular environment. It is picking those designs thrown up by "random" variation that do better in that particular environment.


    I don't see Aristotle using the term "purpose". "Cause", as in "cause and effect", yes. "Purpose", no.


    You are not talking Aristotle but my summary of his ideas. But think about it. Under teleological cause, what is the purpose of the ability of the chameleon to change colors to match the background? The purpose is to avoid predators.


    To the contrary, I suggest that you discard these terms, as your use of them makes it sound like you expect the universe to be full of purpose and design, anthropocentric.


    Not at all.


    1. I am not talking about the universe, but only about NS. Obviously NS exists only when fairly strict parameters are met. When those parameters are absent, there is no NS and no design.

    2. Where do you get "antrhopocentric"? NS obviously isn't being done by human beings. Only when Darwinian selection is used by human beings to design would "anthropocentric" even be admissable for discussion. But even in those conditions we can't use the term, because the designs created by NS are not understood by humans; we don't know how they work. That is certainly not "anthropomorphizing".

  23. I've used it on rats (up to 1 lb in weight) and I've seen it used in rabbits with 100% success, but not in a laboratory (for snake food). The method is pretty much the same for rats (but with a larger blunt object), though rabbits require a much more difficult method (pulling back on the rear legs while holding the neck tightly).


    Cervical dislocation is only approved for rodents less than 200 gm. It is not a matter of "success" necessarily, but of "humane".


    IIRC, they fall under the scope of one of the dozen or so oversight agencies that go through IACUC, but I forget which one. At the end of the day, I know you have to fill out IACUC paperwork for every procedure and species.


    When I served on an IACUC, if you were collecting amphibians and reptiles from the wild then, yes, you had to have IACUC approval. But if you were working with non-endangered amphibian or reptile species purchased from a legal vendor, then no. The situation may have changed over the past 13 years. The USDA has a website on care of fish, amphibians, and reptiles in research -- http://awic.nal.usda.gov/nal_display/index.php?info_center=3&tax_level=3&tax_subject=169&topic_id=1078&level3_id=5346&level4_id=0&level5_id=0 -- but it is unclear whether there are any regulations involved.


    Also remember that every institution gets to set many of its own IACUC policies. Therefore it may be your institution that requires that any research on any species must go thru the IACUC. That would be your local IACUC policy, but not something mandated by the Animal Welfare Act or specific agencies.

  24. I thought that CO2 was the indicator that tells us when we're out of breath, and also that excess CO2 can acidify the blood. Why not use something like nitrogen?


    As Mokele pointed out, nitrogen triggers lack of oxygen and suffocation. CO2 instead simply shuts down the breathing. When suffocating, an animal is very agitated, often trying to push against the lid of the container, or bashing against the walls. In CO2 inhalation the animal checks out the container in a normal non-agitated manner, then quietly lays down, appears to lose consciousness, and then stops breathing.


    Because of the size of container needed, and thus the amount of CO2 needed, it isn't used on any mammals other than mice and rats. Larger animals typically are injected with pentobarbital.


    Mokele, I have never seen cervical dislocation used on any animal other than mice. The technique on a larger animal is difficult, resulting in many failures to dislocate. It is not approved on any animals larger than mice. The technique I have seen most often on mice is to gently hold their tails, place the blunt edge of a scissors behind the neck, press down, and then sharply yank the tail.


    Also, ectotherms do not fall under Animal Welfare Act or any of the regulations -- either by FDA or USDA. Nor have I seen any "animal rights" people argue for better treatment of zebrafish, for example.

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    So Mokele correct me if I am wrong: I would die from the lack of o2 before I died from the CO2 poisoning?


    Absolutely. In the technique we actually flood the chamber with CO2 from a compressed gas cylinder. We replace the air with CO2. You can't do that by breathing in a controlled place.


    And it is one approved method for euthanasia.


    And that if it was CO2 poisoning I would of just passed out. I can understand that. Thank you for clearing that up :). In that case, excess CO2 does not seem all that bad for animal testing.


    Back to the original post, I think to ask if animal testing is wrong or right is the wrong question. One has to ask, Is animal testing necessary? I believe it is to preserve human life, although it is at the expense of an animal. But we ourselves are humans, so we have somewhat of a bias toward human life you might say.


    I would say it is the "right" question. Something can be necessary but not ethical. Being necessary does not make something "right". The point I have always made is that all animal life preserves itself at the expense of other life. There is no "right" or "wrong" in exploiting and using another species. Ethics that apply within your species do not automatically apply between species.


    Notice however that we have chosen to apply some human ethics -- "humane treatment" -- to other species. There are laws on the books against torturing or animals or having animal fights, as Michael Vick found out. We have chosen to treat the experimental animals as humanely as possible while using them for our benefit.

  25. What are your thoughts? Discuss.


    Old news. The universe could have arisen from a quantum fluctuation. That is one of the possibilities. It is also possible that the universe was created by a deity. Insufficient data to decide between those hypotheses (and others). Science remains agnostic.

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    Yes Moth, near the end he said if a new universe began, from the outside it would appear to be as a black hole. Very interesting. Anyone care to explain? How massive a black hole?


    As massive as the content of the unviverse. :) Think about it. Right now the data indicates that the universe began as an infinitely dense, infinitely small volume. That is what a black hole is.


    In a flat universe, with total energy of zero, something will always come from nothing, especially if something has infinite time and space to pop out of nothing.


    But this happens in an existing spacetime. And the "something" only lasts for a very small fraction of a second. What we have with the universe is not only matter/energy but spacetime as well. Not to mention being around for 13.4 billion years. So you also need spacetime to be a quantum event. So far, none of the standard physics theories have that. Spacetime cannot arise by quantum fluctuation in any the currently accepted theories. One of the attractions of String Theory (despite its multiple problems) is that spacetime can itself arise by quantum fluctuation.

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