Evolution and other megaphysical news

Today’s been a great day so far, if you rate your days on cool blog posts that you’ve read. It’s also a great day if you consider the weather, which is why I’m taking the afternoon off. But, that’s beside the point. Here are three good reads for a great Friday:

Shock: First Animal on Earth Was Surprisingly Complex

Earth’s first animal was the ocean-drifting comb jelly, not the simple sponge, according to a new find that has shocked scientists who didn’t imagine the earliest critter could be so complex.

Essentially, rather than the simpler organism evolving into the more complex, the complex comb jelly came first.  The comb jelly has both connective tissues and a nervous system, so if this is now thought to be the first multi-celled animal, it disrupts the previously-accepted tree of life.  Perhaps they’ve simply been looking at the wrong tree…

An interview with Ben Stein about Expelled

Some guy named Jerry interviewed Ben Stein. It’s an interesting little interview, and Ben talks a bit about his views about Darwinism and the Holocaust:

Because I had always had very serious anger about Darwinism, because I think Darwinism led to the Holocaust. I think this belief that there are superior and inferior races, and that the superior races had a moral duty to eliminate the inferior races was one of the main building blocks of Nazism and the Holocaust, and I never thought that had gotten out enough.

And, his thoughts about the current state of the scientific community:

I would say to Eugenie Scott, Yes, you are right; in reality, science is what the scientists say it is. That is the reality of the situation, but it’s not a good reality. It’s not a reality that advances knowledge. It’s not a reality that advances the frontiers of man’s understanding of the universe or even of the human body. Eugenie Scott, you’re right, in the sense that you say, “We’re the boss, do what we say.” And that is usually how life operates; the boss gets to decide what’s right and what’s wrong. As Bob Dylan said, “The princes make the rules for the wise men and the fools.” And in this world, big science are the princes. We’re asking for a world where there aren’t princes and kings. We’re asking for Thomas Jefferson’s world, where there is freedom of speech for everyone, where people can say, “Look, you have no proof of this. You’ve never seen a single mammalian species evolve into a separate species. It’s never been seen. So why don’t you give us a chance to give our explanation? You’ve never seen how a cell got to have a million moving parts. Let us give our explanation. You’ve never seen how the laws of gravity got created. Let us give our explanation. You’re right, Eugenie Scott, you’ve got all the power right now. We agree, you’ve got the power. We’re just little dinky nothings, just asking for what Thomas Jefferson asked the King of England for—freedom of speech, freedom of representation, freedom to make our points. We’re just little dinky nothings, but we have truth on our side.” Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of history is long, but it inclines towards truth.”

You don’t have to agree with him, but if you’re interested in what Ben himself thinks and why he made the movie, it’s a good little interview.

Things you can say about a line

… a religious person could look at a line and say it is a car and you could not argue with them. They would just say you have to see the car by faith and that only atheists see a line because they don’t believe in religion. This is what you call a circle argument which is not a line as I have said already. This is why science and religion don’t mix. Science wants a line and religion wants a car or maybe a nice house. There is no use arguing.

It’s a “must read,” one of the more brilliant megaphysical pieces I’ve read in a long time. And, a great thing to read on such a great Friday. I’m going to go enjoy the sunshine now.

4 thoughts on “Evolution and other megaphysical news”

  1. Dunn’s quote is correct from the blurb, but he is illustrating the misunderstanding common to evolution. Evolution is not a march towards complexity. It proceeds by fits and starts.

    Denyse’s interpretation is incorrect, because she is only basing it on the press release. It illustrates her own misunderstandings (whether through passive or willful ignorance.)

    I have been trying to gain access to the original study cited, but it was published in Nature, which is subscription only. If only it had been published in PubMed or in PLoS, or a similar open journal.

    As for Stein, I know from experience the things that he claims on academia are incorrect. At first I was under the impression that he was willing to appear in the film as a paid talking head, and I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. The problem is that his public statements on the movie indicate that he sincerely believes that people are being damaged by “Big Science.” He has proven himself unwilling to listen to the facts that contradict his position and is now taking ownership of his work in the movie.

    I would like to have given his game show a chance. I don’t know how I would have done. Playing at home versus playing on a TV set are quite different things. I do know that on occasions that I played at home I would have beat him, and on other occasions I would have lost. I have learned by playing Trivial Pursuit that the knowledge needed in playing games like that, the answers are often in the question and understanding how to read the question is often better than having prior knowledge of the subject. I rarely lose at Trivial Pursuit, not because I am smarter than my opponents, but because I know the game.

    But, all that can change under klieg lights.

  2. You’re saying the LiveScience article’s mistaken? This is what Casey Dunn said about the 2nd of 2 possible possibilities he gave to explain the findings:

    The second is that the sponge evolved its simpler form from the more complex form. This second possibility underscores the fact that “evolution is not necessarily just a march towards increased complexity,” Dunn said.

    And, re Stein, do you have credibility to say he has no credibility? Could you win Ben Stein’s money? 😉 (btw, I don’t think I could …)

    The sunshine was great, by the way. Spent all afternoon outside (without a jacket); took some photos, sat outside Starbucks and had a frappacino, chatted with my nephews and Brianna in the park. I love spring.

  3. On the fist article it’s a mistaken conclusion. Ctenephores are earlier than other tested sponges in a study. It doesn’t mean what you think it means.

    Second item, Stein has no credibility on this.

    Third item looks very interesting and I look forward to reading it.

    Enjoy your sunshine.

  4. A day without a good blog post is like a day without an afternoon off. Hmmm. I wonder what Wittgenstein would have thought about that sentence.

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