Human language: After Wolfe on Chomsky, Everett finally speaks for himself

Readers will recall Tom Wolfe’s The Kingdom of Speech, a defense of the fundamental difference between language as we know it and the squawks, moos, and gibbers we hear outside. Wolfe defended linguist Daniel Everett against the Colossus of MIT, Noam Chomsky. Now Everett himself offers some thoughts at Aeon: In 2005, I published a […]

Off-topic: Does fake news actually make a difference in politics?

This bears on the question of whether human beings can apprehend reality. Top naturalists are dedicated to the opposite view. Much politicking around freedom of the media depends on whether one believes that humans can apprehend reality and make choices based on information therefrom. From O’Leary for News at MercatorNet: It wasn’t so much fake […]

Appendix must be important: Evolved over 30 times

From ScienceDaily: Although it is widely viewed as a vestigial organ with little known function, recent research suggests that the appendix may serve an important purpose. In particular, it may serve as a reservoir for beneficial gut bacteria. Several other mammal species also have an appendix, and studying how it evolved and functions in these […]

New Evidence Against the Existence of God: Antarctica, Arizona, Atlantic Ocean

Recently over on this thread started by Barry we have been discussing one of the tired atheist arguments against God’s existence: bad design.  The discussion has been primarily in the context of some of Carl Sagan’s remarks cited by john_a_designer, but Sagan is by no means unique in his failed efforts. Commenter rvb8 had the […]

ID and popular culture: What is fake news? Do we believe it?

Many sources feel that we readily believe fake news. Concern trolls in social sciences are often heard on this point, usually demanding government and corporate action. Having spent a life in news, I would say that the ability to detect fakery increases with familiarity with the medium, as any magazine rack will show. That’s because […]

Why is College Right After High-School?

A lot of people have picked out what is broken in college, but I think perhaps a more core issue about college is a simpler one – that we are sending people to college immediately after high school.

Darwinism and culture: Jerry Coyne threatens no more science posts

Traffic way down. Here: . . . unless people start reading them. Today virtually all the serious posts were animal- or science-related. Traffic is way down (about 60% of normal) which means people aren’t reading them. What do you want—clickbait? More. Of course, this could be a hack. In case not, let’s help Jerry. He […]

Science writer: Could evolution have a higher purpose?

From science writer Robert Wright at New York Times: That said, one interesting feature of current discourse is a growing openness among some scientifically minded people to the possibility that our world has a purpose that was imparted by an intelligent being. I’m referring to “simulation” scenarios, which hold that our seemingly tangible world is […]

Quantum-like model of partially directed evolution?

From Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology: Abstract: (paywall)The background of this study is that models of the evolution of living systems are based mainly on the evolution of replicators and cannot explain many of the properties of biological systems such as the existence of the sexes, molecular exaptation and others. The purpose of this […]

Breaking: We are not “more evolved” than apes…

From Ben Mauk at LiveScience: To say we are more “evolved” than our hairy cousins is just wrong. (See how long you last naked in the Congo Heartland, and then tell me who’s got the evolutionary upper hand.) More. Ah, a question we can answer without a Google search! Free-living apes must survive naked in […]

Tenured Professor Calls it Quits

Climate scientist Judith Curry is a TENURED professor.  But she has had enough.  She announced her resignation last week, citing the literal craziness of the climate science authoritarianism.  She writes: A deciding factor was that I no longer know what to say to students and postdocs regarding how to navigate the CRAZINESS in the field of […]

Nature: “Unhelpful to exclude conservative voices from debate”

From the editors of Nature: The article by Mark Lilla, a researcher at Columbia University in New York City who specializes in the history of Western intellectual, political and religious thought, called for an end to what he described as an overemphasis by liberals on racial, gender and sexual identity politics. He believes that this […]

Professional skeptic Michael Shermer on convincing others when facts fail

Pot. Kettle. Rusty. From Michael Shermer at Scientific American: Have you ever noticed that when you present people with facts that are contrary to their deepest held beliefs they always change their minds? Me neither. In fact, people seem to double down on their beliefs in the teeth of overwhelming evidence against them. The reason […]

Wayne Rossiter: The dragon in Plantinga’s garage

From Wayne State biologist Wayne Rossiter at his blog: A critique of Plantinga’s argument for the compatibility of Darwinian evolution and Christianity. Plantinga’s principle concern (stated in the first line of his first essay) is “Are science and religion compatible?” After some meandering, he refines the search a bit, offering, “Theistic religion endorses special divine […]

Buddhism, we are told, welcomes modern cosmology

From astronomer Chris Impey at Nautilus: Interdependence and impermanence. The words have different meanings to a scientist and a Buddhist, but they provide a common ground for a discussion of the interactions and transformations that pervade the physical universe. To a Buddhist, impermanence means there is no permanent and fixed reality; everything is subject to […]

Coffee!! Urban legends still alive and well in social psychology

And birds still fly forwards too, no less. From Jesse Singal at New York Magazine: a paper published last month in Current Psychology by Christopher Ferguson of Stetson University and Jeffrey Brown and Amanda Torres of Texas A&M, the authors evaluated a bunch of psychology textbooks to see how rigorously they covered a bunch of […]

Cosmologist: Parallel universes are pushing physics too far?

From Marcelo Gleiser at Nautilus: The modern version of the unifying quest is string theory, which supposes that the fundamental entities in nature are vibrating tubes of energy instead of point-like particles of matter. Different vibrating modes correspond to the different particles we observe, just as different vibrating frequencies of a violin string correspond to […]

With only 302 neurons, worms can learn?

From Salk Institute: “Our research shows that, despite having exactly the same genes and neurons as adults, adolescent roundworms have completely different food-seeking preferences and abilities,” says Sreekanth Chalasani, associate professor in Salk’s Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory and senior author of the paper published in eNeuro in January 2017. “It is in adulthood that we finally […]

Desperately Seeking ET. Yes, But Why so Desperate?

For years we have been deluged with science news stories about how this or that datum might finally be the breakthrough demonstrating that earth is not unique in the universe for harboring life.  Why are some scientists so obsessed with ET?  I was thinking about this the other day and it occurred to me that […]

Nightshades evolved much earlier than thought

From ScienceDaily: Delicate fossil remains of tomatillos found in Patagonia, Argentina, show that this branch of the economically important family that also includes potatoes, peppers, tobacco, petunias and tomatoes existed 52 million years ago, long before the dates previously ascribed to these species, according to an international team of scientists. … “Paleobotanical discoveries in Patagonia […]

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