Home » Intelligent Design » Dr. Geoff Simmons vs PZ Myers Debate

Dr. Geoff Simmons vs PZ Myers Debate

I’ve just received the following notice from PSSI (Physicians and Surgeons for Scientific Integrity), of which I am a member. I’m taking the liberty of posting it up here in case anyone else is interested in this debate.

Fresh from our What Darwin Didn’t Know events in Spain, Dr. Geoff Simmons, author of What Darwin Didn’t Know and Billions of Missing Links is scheduled to debate evolutionist PZ Myers, who runs the caustic pro-Darwinism blog Pharyngula. The one hour debate will begin at 1 PM PST tomorrow (Thursday) on radio station KKMS, AM 980 in Minneapolis. You can listen to the debate live on the web by logging onto http://kkms.com/LocalHosts/15/ and clicking on the Listen Live button at the top.

Rich Akin, CEO
PSSI International, Inc.
Physicians and Surgeons for Scientific Integrity
PO Box 16136
Clearwater, FL 33766-6136
727 698-3772
www.pssiinternational.com

EDIT: Mp3 for the debate is located here.

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9 Responses to Dr. Geoff Simmons vs PZ Myers Debate

  1. Please let me know if there is an MP3 available after the broadcast.

  2. Umm better check PZ for steel-toed boots and brass knuckles…

  3. Off-topic,
    Researchers added two additional building blocks to the DNA base4

    from newscientist:
    http://technology.newscientist.com/article/dn13252


    [quote]
    Two artificial DNA “letters” that are accurately and efficiently replicated by a natural enzyme have been created by US researchers. Adding the two artificial building blocks to the four that naturally comprise DNA could allow wildly different kinds of genetic engineering, they say.

    Eventually, the researchers say, they may be able to add them into the genetic code of living organisms.

    The diversity of life on earth evolved using genetic code made from arrangements of four genetic “bases”, sometimes described as letters. They are divided into two pairs, which bond together from opposite strands of a DNA molecule to form the rungs of its characteristic double-helix shape.

    The unnatural but functional new base pair is the fruit of nearly a decade of research by chemical biologist Floyd Romesberg, at the Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California, US.

    Romesberg and colleagues painstakingly created a library of nearly 200 potential new genetic bases that are slight variations on the natural ones. Unfortunately, none of them were similar enough in structure and chemistry to the real thing to be copied accurately by the polymerase enzymes that replicate DNA inside cells.
    Random generation

    Frustrated by the slow pace designing and synthesising potential new bases one at a time, Romesberg borrowed some tricks from drug development companies. The resulting large scale experiments generated many potential bases at random, which were then screened to see if they would be treated normally by a polymerase enzyme.

    With the help of graduate student Aaron Leconte, the group synthesized and screened 3600 candidates. Two different screening approaches turned up the same pair of molecules, called dSICS and dMMO2.

    The molecular pair that worked surprised Romesberg. “We got it and said, ‘Wow!’ It would have been very difficult to have designed that pair rationally.”

    But the team still faced a challenge. The dSICS base paired with itself more readily than with its intended partner, so the group made minor chemical tweaks until the new compounds behaved properly.
    Novel DNA

    “We probably made 15 modifications,” says Romesberg, “and 14 made it worse.” Sticking a carbon atom attached to three hydrogen atoms onto the side of dSICS, changing it to d5SICS, finally solved the problem. “We now have an unnatural base pair that’s efficiently replicated and doesn’t need an unnatural polymerase,” says Romesberg. “It’s staring to behave like a real base pair.”

    The team is now eager to find out just what makes it work. “We still don’t have a detailed understanding of how replication happens,” says Romesberg. “Now that we have an unnatural base pair, we are continuing experiments to understand it better.”

    In the near future, Romesberg expects the new base pairs will be used to synthesize DNA with novel and unnatural properties. These might include highly specific primers for DNA amplification; tags for materials, such as explosives, that could be detected without risk of contamination from natural DNA; and building novel DNA-based nanomaterials.
    Increased ‘evolvability’

    More generally, Romesberg notes that DNA and RNA are now being used for hundreds of purposes: for example, to build complex shapes, build complex nanostructures, silence disease genes, or even perform calculations. A new, unnatural, base pair could multiply and diversify these applications.

    The most challenging goal, says Romesberg, will be to incorporate unnatural base pairs into the genetic code of organisms. “We want to import these into a cell, study RNA trafficking, and in the longest term, expand the genetic code and ‘evolvability’ of an organism.”

    Stanford University chemist Eric Kool, has studied the fundamental chemistry of base-pair bonding. He foresees challenges, but great potential in the unnatural bases.

    “It requires a long effort by multiple laboratories, but I think ultimately it will lead to some important tools,” he says. “The ability to encode amino acids with unnatural base pairs will be quite powerful when it comes.”

    [/quote]

    They claim increased rate of evolvability by adding the unnatural pair. I just thought this might be a good way to put the ultimate test on Darwinian evolution through this genetic modification and see whether any new functional and beneficial structure actually evolves. Could genetic engineering be Darwinian evolutions final demise?

  4. This is an ideal example of Intelligent design: – every step involves detailed complex processes not amenable to formation by the four laws of nature!

  5. this debate sounds sweet. I think Simmons made several great points in billions of missing links (Probably my favorite book on the debate) I would love to hear how he holds up in an actual debate. Too bad I will be in school at the time. Please do post a link of somewhere we can download it! Thanks for posting this!

  6. Oh, good grief…

  7. 7

    If I recall correctly, a whole thread on this debate was posted previously, and Dr. Simmons was judged to have lost woefully. Ears were put in fingers, eyes were shut, and “The Star Spangled Banner” was sung in the hope that the whole thing could be ignored. Eventually (by design or happy accident?) the entire thread was deleted.

  8. [...] I’ve been informed that the peanut gallery (Panda’s Thumb) is accusing me of covering something up for deleting my very brief post about the Simmons/Myers debate. I made the posting a few hours before the debate and included a hotlink so people could listen to it live. I’d intended at the time of writing to remove it after the debate was over as the live link would no longer be working. UD author Doctor Cook had a more in depth article that included the same live link. No coverup. Here’s the link to the archived debate. A link to the archive is also in DA Cook’s orginal post. [...]

  9. Check the google cache:

    http://www.google.com/search?q.....#038;gl=us

    A repost of my thoughts concerning Meyers comment that the “Only difference is in volume, in magnitude”:

    The ONLY difference is in volume, in magnitude? Heck, I don’t spend as much time keeping up with research in that area and even I know that is proving not to be the case.

    http://biology.plosjournals.or.....&ct=1

    For one thing, a big brain is a metabolic drain on our bodies. Indeed, some people argue that, because the brain is one of the most metabolically expensive tissues in our body, our brains could only have expanded in response to an improved diet. Another cost that goes along with a big brain is the need to reorganise its wiring. “As brain size increases, several problems are created”, explains systems neurobiologist Jon Kaas (Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, United States). “The most serious is the increased time it takes to get information from one place to another.” One solution is to make the axons of the neurons bigger but this increases brain size again and the problem escalates. Another solution is to do things locally: only connect those parts of the brain that have to be connected, and avoid the need for communication between hemispheres by making different sides of the brain do different things. A big brain can also be made more efficient by organising it into more subdivisions, “rather like splitting a company into departments”, says Kaas. Overall, he concludes, because a bigger brain per se would not work, brain reorganisation and size increase probably occurred in parallel during human brain evolution. The end result is that the human brain is not just a scaled-up version of a mammal brain or even of an ape brain.
    ….
    As far as understanding how our brains evolved, more questions remain than have been answered. One problem is that we don’t really know enough about how our brains differ from those of other mammals and primates, although work by Zilles and others is helping here. We also know very little about how the areas of our brain are physically linked up, and we need to understand that before we can see how we differ from our nearest relatives. And as far as identifying the gene changes that were selected during evolution, although we have several candidates, we don’t know how or if these gene variants affect our cognitive abilities. It is one thing, concludes Dunbar, to identify genetic or anatomic differences between human and ape brains, but quite another to know what they mean in terms of actual cognitive processes.

    Then there’s Homo florensiensis with its apparently full cognitive abilities despite decreased volume. “It’s not the volume, but the wiring…University of California at San Diego studied MRI scans of 24 monkeys and apes and 10 humans, and found that the frontal cortex, the supposed seat of human wisdom and understanding, was not proportionally larger than expected for a primate of our stature. This undermines the [hypothesis] that an enlargement of the frontal lobe is what gives humans the capacity for increased cognition and intelligence.”

    Also, when I read the work of actual researchers I don’t get the impression that “we know quite a bit about how the brain developed.” Usually I see references to the huge problems that must be overcome by Darwinian processes.

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