24 January 2008

Weekly Sampler 3

Junk DNA is still a-happening. Ryan Gregory's blog Genomicron is the place to learn about it. He's especially adept at driving trucks through the gaps in ID claims about non-coding DNA. My gestating posts on the subject [sigh] will focus more on Reasons To Believe. Watch for a quote from Obi-Wan!

So here are some things I've been munching on this week.

1. I'm not that crazy about Cell Press, at least since they sold out to Elsevier, but they do give some stuff away (e.g. a "Featured Article" is free in each issue), and Neuron is still the best neuro journal. Now they're providing a very nice free resource called Evaluating Techniques in Biomedical Research. Some of the chapters cover techniques that I use regularly in my own research (fluorescence microscopy, RNA interference) and some cover procedures I intend to learn soon (FRET). And there's a chapter on biostatistics, which no one seems to know anything about.

2. So how exactly does one go about discussing the misuse of science by Christians, especially when the discussion is among Christians? I've been worrying about this lately, and it will soon be clear why. If you're similarly nervous (and/or frustrated) about this, check out the healthy discussion of this issue on the ASA listserv, looking for the thread called "Sins of pseudoscience" (and others).

3. My colleague Dan Harlow (Calvin College Religion Department) has an important new paper in the new issue (Winter 2008) of Christian Scholar's Review, called "Creation According to Genesis: Literary Genre, Cultural Context, Theological Truth." It's based on a paper he gave in the Origins Symposium here at Calvin in 2006, where I met Todd Wood, and it should be worth your trouble to get a copy. (Contact me if you need a hand.)

4. Want your genome sequenced? Your dog's genome? The genome of whatever it is that's growing on the leftover Thai food in the back of the fridge? The company is Helicos Biosciences and they're developing technology that will sequence a genome in 10 days for $1000. Hey...I have four kids...I'll get at least that much from Uncle Sam in a few months...

5. Well, speaking of peer review...Answers in Genesis has started a new peer-reviewed online journal. The news blurb in Nature has a good quote from Keith Miller. I'll be watching.

6. Tara Smith's blog Aetiology is amazing. Current series: "Did Yersinia pestis really cause Black Plague?" Shelley Batts at Retrospectacle also celebrated a "Plague week." Did I miss something on the calendar?

7. Michael Behe's case in The Edge of Evolution relies heavily on estimates of mutation rates. Last August an article in Science reported that adaptive (i.e., beneficial) mutation rates in bacteria have been spectacularly underestimated. The Science paper explains why this is so, providing both a vastly different estimate of the adaptive mutation rate and an explanation for why previous studies got it wrong. You'd think that Behe would provide a thorough response. Silly you!

8. I note that Alvin Plantinga was the 2007 speaker in this series. I'll listen and comment sometime; anyone else?

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