18 April 2008

Weekly sampler 15

Last quiz on genome size, with animals chosen at random. The first quiz post explains what this is all about, the second one has additional commentary, and the answers to both previous quizzes are in previous Weekly samplers.

Which organism has the larger genome?

This one? Or this one?
1
2
3
4

Here's some help for you. These are the C-values (amount of DNA per cell) for those animals, in ascending order:

0.23 -- 1.50 -- 2.24 -- 2.72 -- 2.91 -- 3.00 -- 3.29 -- 5.87

And here's a hint: the biggest number does not go with the biggest animal. Good luck!

1. We're living in the postgenomic era, and comparative genomics has already made it impossible to be an intellectually fulfilled anti-evolutionist. I've written before about genome sequencing and the imminence of large-scale and inexpensive sequencing. Well, the first super-fast (4 months vs. more than a decade for the Human Genome Project), super-cheap ($1.5 million vs. billions for the HGP) human genome sequence is now official. It's Jim Watson's genome. Blecch. Someone should use BLAST to search his coding sequences for this amino acid sequence:
Alanine - Serine - Serine - Histidine - Glutamine - Leucine - Glutamic acid
Don't get it? Think about this guy's conduct, then check out the amino acid code.

2. If you think I'm never nice to Reasons To Believe, check out the discussion this week at the ASA listserv. The topic: RTB's statement in which they distance themselves from Expelled.

3. Speaking of Expelled, which I will do infrequently, here's a good reason to avoid the movie and its cynical attempt to enlist and co-opt evangelical Christendom: its indefensible linkage of "Darwinism" with Nazism. If that's not bad enough, check out John Lynch's examination of the diabolical credentials of one "expert" interviewed in the film.

If you're a Christian who thinks that the Nazis are a useful polemical tool against evolution, then maybe you should read about some of Hitler's best-known influences. In my view, if you can read Luther's words and still think there's any moral high ground surrounding the Holocaust that can be claimed by Christendom, then you're crazy. The Holocaust is an unspeakably abhorrent stain on the Church, if you ask me, and it's not Darwinists (whoever they are) who have hard questions to answer. I, for one, believe that Christians should be overwhelmingly humbled by the occurrence of the Holocaust, and not because of the Problem of Evil.

Christopher Heard has several recent posts on Expelled that are worth checking out. Just promise me you won't give any money to these chowderheads.

I say: skip Expelled. Send the money to Compassion International. Or give it to a library or school. Say no to the minions of the Discovery Institute who have given up the pretense of "scientific" explorations of "design" and have lustily embraced full frontal culture war. [spits]

3. [Deep breath] So, were you alive in the 1980's? Remember Bloom County? It's my favorite comic strip of all time (apologies to Calvin & Hobbes). The strip often tracked current events; during the 1981 Arkansas creationism trial, Bloom County presented the famous "penguin evolution" trial in which "scientific penguinism" was being advocated by certain characters. Some classic excerpts from that brilliant series are illicitly available in the blogosphere; don't miss the one (second from the bottom) in which the scientific expert states, "Penguin evolution is a fib." You can find some similarly scintillating examples on Berkeley Breathed's site. My favorites: the first and the next to last.

4. Kevin Corcoran writes this about a recent piece by Stanley Fish on deconstruction:
John Searle said it first, but it applies here: it’s stuff like this that gives bullshit a bad name.
Now that's funny.

5. The online repository of Darwin's works at the University of Cambridge announced this week that they were making available a gigantic collection of Darwin's private papers, including "the first draft of his theory of evolution" and notes from the Beagle voyage. One little tidbit: apparently they sold tickets to lectures at the University of Edinburgh. Hmmmm. [rubs chin]
Via my brilliant brother, who works at HP and helps his wife run her cool small business.

6. There was a lot of cyberspace snickering when Answers Research Journal started up, and some of the articles there are pretty lame (the metaphysical piece would, I think, do poorly in a 200-level philosophy course at Calvin). But have a look at the new article on peer review; the authors are worth listening to, and their discussion of peer review from a Christian perspective is worth considering. I'm not crazy about the occasional proof-texting, and the authors frequently address the YEC community specifically. But here's the type of clear-headed wisdom you'll find in their paper:
By striving for excellence, we also love our neighbors. In our modern, western culture, many people view scientific pronouncements as authoritative. Christians who are also scientists therefore have an even higher duty to speak with excellence than the average Christian, simply because of the perceived authority that they possess. Errors made by Christians speaking in the name of science, no matter how well intentioned, can become “common wisdom” and thereby very difficult to correct. Even greater responsibility lies upon the scholar who professes ideas to the general public rather than just scholarly colleagues. In doing so, the scholar becomes a teacher, with all the attendant responsibilities (e.g., Matthew 5:19, 18:6; James 3:1). We therefore love our neighbors by striving to present the excellence of God in our written work and avoid the dangerous alternative of leading them into error.
I probably don't need to explain why that passage rang true. You might notice, by the way, the links take you to the New King James Version. What is it with the conservative/fundamentalist fondness for 400-year-old prose bearing the name of an English monarch?

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