Saturday, December 19, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Oral Roberts: God Finally Took Him

Oral Roberts, preacher and beggar of divine funds extraordinaire, pulled off the lowest of the low cons some years ago when he claimed if his followers didn't give him sufficient funds, God would "call him home".

And people gave. A lot. Explains a lot, doesn't it?

Oral Roberts is dead. Good riddance. Aren't you all so glad you gave?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Great Debunking of the God-could-have-done-it-that-way Argument

If you get as bored as I do with the bad math and biological ignorance of the creationists who constantly claim some mutation or another is too improbable, check out what happens to Cornelius Hunter when a commenter named Duke goes to the trouble of doing the calculations for the evolution of a mitochondrial protein for him. Hunter just yanks a "million million" figure out of his ass, and then gets confused when Duke actually takes the time to put together a lower bound for the number of corn mitochondria:

Just to give an idea of the scale of numbers we're talking about here. Let' say that every corn mitochondrion has the minimum number of genomes, 2 (although that number will probably vary, since having more or fewer genomes is a common genetic abnormality, even in humans), and let's say that every corn cell has 100 mitochondria in it (Google "How many mitochondria in a plant cell" and take the first result), which is the low estimate for plants. Let's also assume that each corn plant has a millions cells in it, which is ridiculously low, but I'm making a point here. That means we have

2 genomes/mitochon. * 100 Mitochon/cell * 1e6 cell/plant

That means 2e8 mitochondrial genomes per plant, and that's a ridiculously low estimate. Even so, that takes you to one five-thousandth of your legendary "million million" number.

But wait! There are 4e12 corn plants grown every year. That means there are 8e20 (that's 800,000,000,000,000,000,000) separate mitochondria, every year, each one ready to randomly stumble upon a simple protein in that tiny 1e12 haystack.

Hunter's only reply after a lot of obtuseness by design is to declare the comparison "apples and oranges and not making sense".

Hunter also reveals that he doesn't understand that genomes do not copy themselves perfectly:

Hunter: You can have as many copies of the mitochondria as you like in that line of corn, they share the same genome.

Duke: Um... Reference? You're saying that mitochondria copy themselves perfectly? With no mutation at all? You'll have to show your work on that, I'm afraid.

Nor does he understand how common gene duplication is:

Hunter: And finally, the vast majority of the de novo gene we're talking about has high similarity to two existing segments in the genome. You're saying that unguided mutations just happened to create a new gene that mimics two existing sequences?

Duke: Um... Yes? This sort of thing is common and observed. Part of the genome is copied and added onto the genome twice. It's like some unguided copy-editor added two versions of Chapter Four to a book.

And for the best moment, one of Hunter's fans named Natschuster tries to come in and save him:

Natschuster: I'm not convinced that it could turn the corn into a new species. If I make small random changes to my car, I might get lucky, and one of the changes will improve my cars performance, but I don't think that it will ever turn my car into a truck.

Duke:Really? You can't see turning your car into a truck in small steps? Your car into a truck? Really?

Are you serious?

Of course, your thought experiment of turning a car into a truck is wildly wrong, betraying a gross misunderstanding of what your opponents believe. What you'd actually be doing is copying your car, repeatedly, thousands upon thousands of time, with minor variations. Those copies in the second generation that cease to function are destroyed; those that are better at performing whatever you need them to do are kept (in the case of the car-to-truck transition, this might be hauling cargo rather than carrying passengers) to breed the third generation. Repeat as necessary. This sort of thing does happen and has been demonstrated happening.

Ideological denial, meet reality, courtesy of Duke. Check out the entire exchange, it's a howler.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

House Panel OKs Bill on College Football Playoff

A House panel has given the OK to a bill proposed by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Arlington (that would be very close to TCU), which would prevent the BCS from calling its title game any form of a "national championship game" unless it were the result of a playoff system.

"What our friends and fans need to know about the Bowl Championship Series is that it is not about choosing the champion or competition on the gridiron," Barton said. "It is about revenue sharing for the schools that are in the BCS conferences."

The BCS, which started in 1998, was supposed to diminish controversy over determining a college football champion. But critics say the format has only muddled the situation further and left many schools at a disadvantage. BCS officials and other defenders of the system say it has a good record of producing a championship matchup and is constantly being adjusted for fairness.

Barton and others reiterated concerns about the system, though, during a jocular hourlong hearing that featured a number of references to team loyalties. Tradition-rich schools and conferences receive the bulk of the BCS' multimillion-dollar payouts, they said, and smaller schools, such as TCU and Boise State, have little opportunity to participate in the title game.

That's putting it too kindly. By eliminating point spread in the computer ratings which make up 1/3 of the BCS rankings, the BCS system has made it mathematically impossible for a team from a small conference, like Boise State, to reach the top even it defeated every opponent 100-0. Middle-of-the-roaders like TCU could do it, but it would require a crazy year like this one where many top teams lost games they were heavily favored to win.

Let's hope this fundamental disparity triggers some principle in anti-trust law to break up the BCS oligarchy and allow a playoff and a champion decided on the field, as happens in every other college sport, including lower division football.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Uncomfortable Question for Young Earth Creationists

From Raven:

The other question some YECs hate is, “Do you believe Noah had a boatload of dinosaurs?”

The YECs that are trying to look intelligent and educated will waffle around and refuse to answer it. They know it makes them look silly.

Be sure to ask it often and don’t let them evade the question.

It is a central story of their religion. God ineptly creates humans in his own image so they are also inept. Then he genocides all but 8 in an attempt to improve them. That didn’t work so he sent his kid down to be nailed to a tree. So how did that work? The next step in god’s improvement program to fix his original design flaws is another genocide.

For an all powerful being, he certainly seems to have trouble getting things to work. Someone tell me again, why the fundie god is worth worshipping?

Indeed, why? We've all been so immersed in this lunacy, many of us have lost the ability to step back and see just how loony it is.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Nice Quote on Creationist Doublethink

'Creationists are the only people in the world who could simultaneously think that 6000 years is the entire history of the universe but that the 70 million years of the Cambrian Explosion is “sudden”.' - Reinard.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Designer's Goofs

For quick rebuttal to the notion of a designing intelligence being the only logicl explanation for the complexity of biology, I give you The Designer's Goofs, all 96 of them (bonus points for finding more). The most persuasive IMO are those where the supposed designer made the same exact mistake in many species. Rather odd sense of humor he has.

Primate dietary requirement for vitamin C

Apes and humans require vitamin C in their diets... which is rather odd, because most mammals synthesise their own. Yet although we humans cannot; we do have the same gene for this that they do... but it is broken! And it is rendered non-functional by precisely the same mutation in all the great apes. Coincidence? And how loving of the creator to give people without adequate diets scurvy!

Cat taste

Unlike most mammals, cats are uninterested in, and presumably are unable to taste, substances that are sweet. 'So what', you might say, 'they don't need to'. Well perhaps. But if they don't need to taste sweet things, it is odd that they possess the same requisite genetic machinery for sweet detection that other mammals have... but one of the two receptor genes is broken, rendering it non-functional.

What's more, the exact same deletion and stop codons are found, not just in domestic cats, but also in tigers and cheetahs, which means the designer gave superfluous sweet-taste genes, and then broke them identically, not just to one design, but to several.