Really, truly, I didn’t mean it. Life gets busy, you know? Er, I mean, the Men-in-Black arrested me and wiped my memory; my cat ate my laptop; the Tasmanians invaded; the Internet in Australia was shut off for two weeks; I was turned into a horrible Drosophila ananassae/Homo sapiens hybrid in a freak lab accident involving PCR, a papercut and a dodgy pipette: mix and match your favourite (far more exciting) excuses for my absence.
Anyway, the point is, I was gone for a while. But the Internet stops for no undergraduate student, so here are a few things that happened over the last two weeks that I probably would have told you about if I’d had a chance to blog.
Everyone’s favourite wedge-bending ID proponent, David Klinghoffer, sparred (and is still sparring, at the time of writing) with my friend Josh Rosenau over the silly topic of whether or not the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has murky connections to the world of 9/11 conspiracy theories. Josh (not writing in an official capacity for the NCSE over at his ScienceBlogs blog) does seem to have the upper hand here, but I could just be biased by the fact that I agree with all of his points. That’s what “biased” means, right? Anyway, check the tussle out – David’s posts are amusing, if unsettling: the Discovery Institute really went that far? Really?
To get the taste of conspiracy and allegation out of your mouth, you should also visit the 39th edition of the Carnival of Evolution, which was posted two weeks ago at The End of the Pier Show. Some excellent science blogging in there, and if you read this blog then I know you’re into evolutionary biology in some way at least, so don’t miss it.
In music news, St. Vincent released her new album, Strange Mercy, a few days ago in the UK and the US (for some reason it’s been out in Australia for a bit longer, which goes against everything I’ve experienced with regards to cinema and video games), and NPR has given everyone the opportunity to listen to the entire album for free. I know, it’s awesome. Oh, and so is the album. (I especially like the solo in the middle of Northern Lights - just the right amount of chaos.) If you’ve liked what I’ve previously shown of it, make sure you listen to the whole thing (and maybe even buy it, so, you know, the artist gets some money).
A pro-ID blog that recently came to my attention, called The Genome’s Tale, published a fascinating post recently about the ID concept of “front-loading”. Why is it fascinating? Well, they seem to be a little confused about what front-loading (a mechanism the putative Designer could have used when “designing” life) is supposed to be: is it a philosophical idea or a scientific hypothesis? Take a look at these two quotes:
A pressing question flung at intelligent design proponents is the question of what mechanisms the intelligent designer used. Many intelligent design proponents respond by arguing that this is a philosophical, not a scientific issue. And they are right. However, it is also true that we are beginning to unravel the clues to the origin of the highly sophisticated parts of life – features of life that point to teleology. With the slow but steady unveiling of the origin of those features of life come a number of clues that hint at some possible mechanisms used to design life. The most robust of the possible mechanisms, in my opinion, is the hypothesis of front-loading…
So, it’s philosophical? But…
The front-loading hypothesis is a possible mechanism for teleological design in biology. Several of the predictions of the front-loading hypothesis have been confirmed, but we must keep in mind that, at the moment, that mechanism is a hypothesis. Further work needs to be done in this area to strengthen the case for front-loading as a teleological mechanism.
Seems to me like they’re describing a scientifically testable concept, aka. a hypothesis – a word used many times through out the post. Whether or not they’re interpreting the idea correctly as a hypothesis could be analysed another time, I suppose, but I just find it weird that they are defining “mechanisms of design” as a philosophical area and then claiming to be able to investigate it scientifically. More evidence that the ideas of the ID movement are rather half-baked.
In other news, I’ve been reading lots of papers recently about the evolution of bacterial catabolic pathways for nitroaromatic compounds (eg. 2-nitrotoluene, 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT), etc.), so I’m thinking I should write about that soon, given how little proper science ever gets discussed on here. It’s all fascinating research and just goes to show how powerful evolution can be, even over the span of a century or so.