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    I have something to say to the religionist who feels atheists never say anything positive: You are an intelligent human being. Your life is valuable for its own sake. You are not second-class in the universe, deriving meaning and purpose from some other mind. You are not inherently evil--you are inherently human, possessing the positive rational potential to help make this a world of morality, peace and joy. Trust yourself.
    Dan Barker

    He that will not reason is a bigot; he that cannot reason is a fool; he that dares not reason is a slave.
    William Drummond

    The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.
    Richard Dawkins

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Micro, Macro And Darwinism Foolishness


I have been hearing these comments many times lately. For the most part I have heard them from fundajelical Christians who claim microevolution happens while there is no possible way macroevolution could happen. Also for some reason they continue to call the modern theory of evolution Darwinism as if there have been no advances in the theory and it was finalized by Darwin in 1859. It is also interesting to notice that fundajelicals often call evolutionary theory Darwinism as if they are saying “yes, we have an irrational belief in a religion but you have an ‘ism’ too.” The saddest part is that I have heard these same three statements made by a self-proclaimed agnostic that believes in an intelligent creator (which means he is a theist not an agnostic). Since these mistaken beliefs are apparently so widespread, I figured writing an article addressing them would be a very good idea. Continue reading

Evolution Will Be Falsified Within 100 Years?


Tiktaalik roseae

Tiktaalik

Again I have been told  by a Christian fundagelical out here that evolution will undoubtedly be falsified within the next century. I really didn’t follow her ‘logic’ so I asked her to explain. Continue reading

How Did Life Begin?


Animation of the structure of a section of DNA...

DNA

Quite  often I have  heard the objection that life could not have formed until the first replicator, such as DNA or RNA, had formed. Usually this objection came to me via Jehovah’s Witnesses but I have occasionally heard the same objection from other creationists. Firstly, DNA does not replicate itself in the absence of DNA polymerase which is a protein that catalyzes the reaction by adding nucleotides to the DNA strand.  In concept RNA could replicate itself but that has not been observed. What has been observed in a sort of autocatalytic reaction is that RNA through Ribozymes, which are molecules of RNA, have been found to catalyze either the hydrolysis of one of their own phosphodiester bonds, or the hydrolysis of bonds in other RNA molecules.  Another objection is that life can not come from non-life. Formic acid, the simplest organic acid and still found in those painful bee stings, can be fixed from Carbon Dioxide under UV light which coincidently were the conditions on the primordial Earth.

Continue reading

How Fast Does A Mutation Spread


Bailey's Pocket Mouse (Chaetodipus baileyi) is...

Pocket Mouse

The Rock pocket mouse (Chaetodipus Intermedius) is both sandy colored and black. They inhabit in the American southwest and I am writing specifically about those inhabiting Pinacate Peaks New Mexico. The natural predators of this mouse are owls. That is why their sandy coloration is beneficial to their survival. About 1.7 million years ago there were lava flows in the area that hardened into a dark almost black rock. Against that background the survival benefit from a sandy colored coat vanished. There is one mutation, totally random, which is why evolution works, that gives the mouse a black or dark coat. In 2003 the DNA of the mice was sampled from both variations of mouse and it was found the difference was in the Melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R). Light colored mice have 2 light-colored genes while 1 or 2 of the genes are the dark variety in black mice.

How often a black mutation randomly appears depends on the mutation rate,  the reproduction rate and the population size. Considering the mutation rate, there are 2 Billion sites in the DNA of the mice, 10 sites in MC1R gene x 2 genes multiplying out to a 1 in 25 million chance that a mouse will have a black coat due to random mutation. Sounds pretty small doesn’t it? The rate of reproduction varies between 3-6 with an average being about 5 offspring per year per female. In a population of 5000 females that means there will be 25000 offspring per year. Multiplying the mutation rate by 25000 tells us that there will be at least 1 black mutation every 1000 years. Considering the pinacate lave flows are 1.7 million years old, that means the black mutation could have arisen at least 1700 times during that time span.

How long would it take to spread through the population? That depends on population size and s which is a selection coefficient (measure of advantage) it is a relative measure of fitness and a product of reproduction and survival. A 1% advantage is written as s= 0.01. An  s= 0.01 means at 1000 generations 95% of the population has the mutation and would be totally black. In real life, the survival advantage is over 10% which is written as s=0.1 and after a mere 100  generations 95% of the population would have black coats.

In conclusion, a 1% survival advantage is really not low or as some history deniers (creationists) would claim highly improbable. Mutations can and do spread faster than most people realize.

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Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body


In Your Inner Fish, Neil Shubin tells the story of evolution by tracing the organs of the human body back millions of years, long before the first creatures walked the earth. By examining fossils and DNA, Shubin shows us that our hands actually resemble fish fins, our head is organized like that of a long-extinct jawless fish, and major parts of our genome look and function like those of worms and bacteria.

The beginning  of Your Inner Fish deals with Shubin’s search for a fossil of a creature that The Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection said must exist but had yet to be found.

An intermediate stage between fish and reptile had long been hypothesized to have existed during the Late Devonian, some 375 million years ago. Sure enough, in some exposed rocks from the Late Devonian, Shubin’s team discovered something positively astounding. A fish with wrists. Continue reading

Amphibious Cat


In the wetlands and flood plains of south-east Asia there is a cat with webbed feet. Last I   checked, cats hate water but this cat is different. It actually is an excellent swimmer and the kittens have been observed playing for hours in basins full of water. The scientific (species) name is Prionailurus planiceps and they split from the seven other major groups of cats about six million years ago.

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Lechuguilla Cave


In New Mexico in Carlsbad Caverns National Park is the Lechuguilla Cave. At a length of just over 126 miles it is the fifth longest cave in the world (the longest is the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, who’s length is 367 miles). Although it is the deepest in the USA at a depth of 1604 feet it is dwarfed by the Voronya Cave in Abkhazia in Georgia which is 7190 feet in depth.

The cave is named for Agave lechuguilla (a plant found only in the Chihuahuan and Sonoran Desert) which is found near the cave’s entrance. An interesting fact about the Agave lechuguilla is that the water from the plant is sold in Mexico as a sports drink since it is rich in salt and minerals yet the plant itself is poisonous.

Lechuguilla Cave was a small mining cave in the early part of this century which was 90 feet deep and about 400 feet in length. In the 1950s wind was heard coming up from the cave floor which led some to believe that there were more passages under the floor. Digging began with the permission of the National Park Service but unfortunately it was almost 30 years later in 1984. Mapping of the cave’s passages begun in earnest in 1986 and what once was 90 feet deep at a length of 400 feet became a whopping 1604 feet of depth at a length of over 126 miles.

The reason I chose to write about this cave is the extreme beauty found within and some of the most interesting geology is inside. One thing of particular interest is the proposed existence of chemolithoautotroph bacteria (bacteria that derives it’s energy from minerals). Instead of waxing on about the cave’s beauty, see it for yourself in the video.

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