Monthly Archives: August 2013
I was as surprised as everybody else that our Parliament has soundly rebuffed the call for airstrikes against Syria in the light of the (so far only probable) use of chemical weapons by Assad. But I’m also glad.
Blogger The OFloinn has started (and not yet completed) a mythbusting and brilliantly written series on the historical transition from Ptolomeic astronomy. Part one of The Great Ptolomeic Smackdown is here, and Part two here. If you like it you can follow his links to subsequent parts as he posts them. Particularly valuable is the unusually thorough debunking of the scientistic fiction that the unenlightened, stupid (and religious) Old Days gave way to the truth and light of Science. Instead, the consistent mixture of astonishing insight and human shortcomings in every age is made clear. This has obvious lessons for the current debates about evolutionary thought and its complex relationship … Continue reading
My lack of recent writing activity (which reflects, alas, a lack of reading activity) is largely due to the wedding of the last of my children over the weekend, which entailed a trip to a villa on the Côte d’Azur and the subsequent take-over of the Oxo Tower terrace overlooking the Thames in London. Such are the arduous duties of fatherhood.
If you look at the way the Wikipedia article on “Noncoding DNA” has settled after much to-ing and fro-ing after the ENCODE papers were published, you’ll see that the final “consensus” is that ENCODE’s figure of 80%+ function for DNA means little, since mere transcription is a poor indicator of function. Naughty ENCODE was careless in playing into the Creationists’ hands. Uncommon Descent has just pointed to a paper by Mattick and Dinger who clearly belong to that increasing “lunatic fringe” of people with excellent credentials who cast doubt on that wisdom.
A couple of months ago I embarked on reading (intermittently) through the Old Testament Apocrypha, most of which I’ve not read before, though it contains useful insights into the times between the testaments. Reading 2 Esdras in the New English Bible, I realised it was the same as the “4th Ezra” cited by Tom Wright in the quote I included in this piece on Adam. There he says: [In Judaism] there isn’t a doctrine of Original Sin until 4th Ezra and 2 Baruch, which were written after the destruction of the temple in AD 70. Where the destruction of the temple has forced them to say ‘we were aware of … Continue reading
This interesting paper has attracted some attention from the Intelligent Design websites like ENV and UD. And well it might, because it has reversed the usual Darwinian understanding of evolutionary expansion as an increasingly divergent tree, and replaced it with something more like a turnip. “The turnip of life” … doesn’t quite have the same ring, does it?