Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Whither Natural Selection

Darwin's theory of natural selection (NS) continues to get dissed by scientists disillusioned by the failure of NS to account for the enormous diversity of living things. The latest outrage is occuring in England at a conference of over 300 biologists, chemists, philosophers and other scholars who are trying to come up with an alternative or a supplement to NS.

The story quickly offers its obligatory dismissal of any nonsense about intelligent agency behind life, but then buried in the text are passages like these:

Prof Mark Bedau of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, will argue at this week's meeting - the 11th International Conference on Artificial Life - that .... although natural selection is necessary for life, something is missing in our understanding of how evolution produced complex creatures. By this, he doesn't mean intelligent design - the claim that only God can light the blue touch paper of life - but some other concept. "I don't know what it is, nor do I think anyone else does, contrary to the claims you hear asserted," he says. But he believes ALife (artificial life) will be crucial in discovering the missing mechanism.

Dr Richard Watson of Southampton University, the co-organiser of the conference, echoes his concerns. "Although Darwin gave us an essential component for the evolution of complexity, it is not a sufficient theory," he says. "There are other essential components that are missing."

"Evolution on its own doesn't look like it can make the creative leaps that have occurred in the history of life," says Dr Seth Bullock, another of the conference's organisers. "It's a great process for refining, tinkering, and so on. But self-organisation is the process that is needed alongside natural selection before you get the kind of creative power that we see around us.

The more we learn about the complexity of life the more inadequate purely material processes seem to be in explaining it. Living things certainly appear to be engineered, and it is, I think, just a matter of time before scientists can no longer evade the inference.

HT: Evolution News and Views.


You May be a Racist If...

I was watching a cable talk show the other night and one of the interlocutors was struggling mightily to make the point that McCain's ad briefly showing Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears was racist because it showed a black man (Barack Obama) right after two blonde white women and we all know what message that sends, don't we? Timothy Noah at The New Republic in all seriousness opined that it's racist to call Obama "skinny" because that calls attention to his appearance, and there can only be nefarious motives for wanting to do that.

There are apparently a lot of people who think that any criticism of Obama is rooted in racism, even if the sin is buried deep in the subconscious. There are some who think that all whites are racist just by virtue of being white, and thus if a white criticizes Obama it's confirmation of the suspicion. To assist our readers in confronting their own inherent racism, no matter how strenuously they deny its existence, we run the following partial list of reliable indicators of this awful and insidious affliction. We thank Peter Kirsanow at National Review Online for coming up with it and refer you to the full list at that site:

  • If you think Obama's the most liberal member of the senate you...may be a racist.
  • If you object to Obama raising your payroll, capital gains and estate taxes you...may be a racist.
  • If you'd prefer a president have at least some foreign policy experience you...may be a racist.
  • If you wonder why Obama was hanging around William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn you...may be a racist.
  • If your pastor is nothing like Rev. Wright or Father Pfleger you... may be a racist.
  • If you don't want the majority of justices on the Supreme Court to be like Stephen Breyer you...may be a racist.
  • If you're not impressed with Obama's 100% NARAL rating you...may be a racist.
  • If you're not sure whether Obama opposed or supported FISA reauthorization you...may be a racist.
  • If you oppose racial preferences in employment, school admissions and contracting you...may be a racist.
  • If you think "we are the change we've been waiting for" is a line from a Monty Python skit you...may be a racist.
  • If you prefer that a president have a smidgen of executive experience you...may be a racist.
  • If you're appalled that Obama voted against treating infants born after an abortion attempt the same medically as other infants born alive you...may be a racist.
  • If you were proud of your country even before Obama's candidacy you...may be a racist.

To this list might be added: If you use words like "black hole" or "niggardly" then you're definitely a racist. Re-education and sensitivity training will begin next week. If you don't show up it's because you're racist.


Democracy in America

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi "explains" why she will not allow a vote in the House of Representatives on whether or not oil companies should be permitted to drill offshore for oil:

If the Speaker had a good reason for preventing a vote why doesn't she state it instead of insulting the nation the literal nonsense she stammers to Stephanopolous? It certainly appears as if Speaker Pelosi knows she doesn't have the votes to defeat the bill, and so, rather than let the representatives of the people decide what we should do about oil supply, she adjourns the House and goes on vacation. Is this how democracy works in America when liberals are in charge.

Ms Pelosi was adamant two years ago that Congress under her leadership would be bipartisan and open to debate, yet when an issue arises for which there is much bipartisan support but to which she is strongly opposed, she refuses to allow it to come to a vote.

She's also a champion of the "Fairness Doctrine" which would require radio stations to balance conservative points of view with liberal counterweights. Well, where's the fairness in refusing to allow the people to decide whether we should drill for the oil we have within our territorial waters?