In a previous post, I noted that from a scientific point of view, it is quite clear that a baby developing in the womb is fully human. In fact, people who claim otherwise are forced to argue against science. This produces some really absurd ideas, such as Josh Rosenau’s claim that it is hard to distinguish between a baby developing in the womb and cancer!
Now even though I doubt that it will change the minds of the fervent pro-abortion crowd out there, it is important to communicate what science tells us about a baby developing in the womb. As I mentioned in the previous post linked above, not only does genetics tell us that from the moment of fertilization, a baby is 100% human, but recent studies also indicate that when given the opportunity, babies in the womb will socialize. This, of course, adds to the genetic evidence and confirms that babies in the womb are, indeed, fully human.
The newest thing science tells us is that parts of the brain that were thought not to develop until after a baby is born are actually well-developed in the womb. Interestingly enough, those parts of the brain are involved in the kinds of activities that make us…well…human.
On Monday, December 13th, I debated Dr. Boyd Haley on the question “Do Vaccines Cause Autism?” I took the scientific position, which is no. It was sponsored by the International Medical Council on Vaccination, which produces all sorts of anti-vaccine misinformation. Prior to December 13th, they publicized the debate heavily, and their website indicated that a recording of the debate would be posted after the debate was finished.
Interestingly enough, the recording was never posted on their website. Now something even more interesting has happened. Currently, there is absolutely no mention of the debate on their website at all. If you Google the word “debate” and restrict the domain to the International Medical Council on Vaccination’s website, you find several addresses where it was once mentioned:
However, if you go to those addresses now, you get either an error message or a list of other articles. If you search for “debate” using the search box on the International Medical Council on Vaccination’s website, you find nothing related to the debate.
Does this surprise me? Not really. Does it disappoint you? If so, don’t worry. You can watch the debate here. (Thanks to Matt Fig for converting it to Youtube format.) Once you watch it, perhaps you will understand why such a heavily-promoted event has been wiped off the website of the group that hosted it!
NOTE: In addition to uploading the debate to Youtube, Matt Fig found the International Medical Council on Vaccination’s original post publicizing the debate:
I have always been a cat lover. It’s not that I don’t like dogs; I do. In fact, I have one friend who says his dog misses me for a while every time I leave his home. Nevertheless, when it comes to what pets I want to have in my home, cats win over dogs every time. I have always found cats more… well… elegant than dogs. Now, a new study confirms this is true, at least when it comes to how they drink.
Pedro M. Reis, the lead author of the study, was watching his cat (Cutta Cutta) drink one day. He knew that like dogs, cats cannot use their cheeks to suck in liquid. Thus, they must pull liquid into their mouths using their tongues. As he watched his cat, he wondered what physical mechanisms were at work. He thought surely someone had studied how cats drink water before, but the best thing he could find was a 1940 film called Quicker ‘n a Wink, which featured MIT professor Harold “Doc” Edgerton.1 While it had some nice high-speed photography of a cat drinking, it didn’t really explore what was going on in terms of the physics involved. As a result, his team decided they would find out for themselves.
On Monday, December 13th, I debated Dr. Boyd Haley, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, University of Kentucky, on the question “Do Vaccines Cause Autism?” I took the scientific position, which is that they do not. In my previous post on the subject, I noted that if you want to see the shoddy science promoted by those who believe that vaccines cause autism, you should watch the debate.
Well, despite the technical problems associated with the debate, I think it really did show how shoddy the science is on the anti-vaccination side. However, you don’t have to take my word for it. You can watch the debate yourself:
Most biology students know that there are two forms of reproduction: sexual and asexual. In sexual reproduction, the genome of the offspring is made from two contributors: the male parent and the female parent. In asexual reproduction, a single organism reproduces, and the offspring are genetically identical (barring any mutations) to the single parent. In general, bacteria reproduce asexually, while most animals and plants reproduce sexually. However, there are some animals that can reproduce asexually. Sea stars, hydra, and planarians are examples.
What most biology students don’t know is that there are examples of individual species of animals that reproduce asexually, even though other very similar animals reproduce sexually. Take, for example, the Amazon molly (Poecilia formosa), which is pictured above. It is thought that this species arose when a female Atlantic molly (P. mexicana) sexually reproduced with a male sailfin molly, (P. latipinna). While both the mother and the father (as well as all other members of the genus) reproduce sexually, the Amazon molly reproduces asexually. So when this interesting fish produces offspring, they are all genetically identical to the parent, except in certain rare instances, such as when mutations occur.
Now interestingly enough, there are a few forms of asexual reproduction in animals, and the one employed by the Amazon molly is called “gynogenesis.” In this form of asexual reproduction, a male is needed, but he contributes nothing to the genetics of the offspring. Essentially, the female produces eggs that have the full complement of genes (technically called a “diploid egg”), but they cannot begin development into offspring until they are stimulated by the presence of a male’s sperm. The problem, of course, is that all Amazon mollys are female. As a result, the Amazon molly “mates” with similar fishes, usually ones from the same genus.
One really interesting question related to all this is, “Why is it rare?” After all, sexual reproduction is annoying. You have to find a member of your own species that is the opposite gender. The Amazon molly’s form of asexual reproduction still requires a male, but it can be from a wide range of species. As a result, it is much easier for the Amazon molly to find a mate. Why, then, isn’t this kind of reproduction found very often in animals?
I just came across an article in the journal Science called “Irremediable Complexity?” 1 In the article, the authors describe an evolutionary idea called “constructive neutral evolution,” which was first proposed in 1993. The paper starts out stating something that is quite obvious:
Many of the cell’s macromolecular machines appear gratuitously complex, comprising more components than their basic functions seem to demand.
Of course the cell seems “gratuitously complex” to an evolutionist, since an evolutionist is forced to believe that everything found in cells (as well as the cells themselves) developed as a result of random processes acted on by natural selection. You would not expect amazingly complex things to be produced that way. Nevertheless, when you look at cells, you see all sorts of amazing complexity. Of course, those of us who understand science know that the cell’s machinery is not gratuitously complex. It is simply very well designed by a Designer who built a lot of adaptability and diversity into His creation.
The paper goes on to ask how we can understand such “gratuitous complexity” in light of evolution. The real answer is that you cannot. However, that’s not the answer an evolutionist likes, so the authors have to come up with something else. They quickly reject the widely-held adaptationist belief that the complexity is just the result of natural selection preserving any random changes that improve basic function. While they admit that this view can explain some of the simpler aspects of the cell, it clearly fails when discussing some of the really complex parts of the cell.
Their reasoning is quite valid, but their proposed solution takes even more faith to believe than the adaptationist view!
I recently commented on NASA’s paper regarding bacteria that can successfully incorporate arsenic into their biochemistry. Well, another blogger who has more expertise related to the paper has posted a very critical analysis. It is worth reading.
Essentially, the blogger believes that it is very possible the bacteria that lived in the arsenic-only cultures might have been scavenging phosphorous from others in the population that had died. As a result, the blogger is skeptical that arsenic was incorporated into the bacteria’s biochemistry to any meaningful extent.
The blogger is especially critical of the analysis claiming to have found arsenic incorporated into the bacteria’s DNA. He thinks the DNA-related data can be explained by contamination:
If this data was [sic] presented by a PhD student at their committee meeting, I’d send them back to the bench to do more cleanup and controls.
Based on the comments, it seems the blogger is sending a modified version of the post to Science as a letter to the editor. It will be interesting to see how the NASA group responds.
I got an E-MAIL from a parent asking if I could recommend any physics books to her. It seems that her son, who is currently majoring in physics and piano performance at a state university, asked for physics books for Christmas. In the E-MAIL she noted:
[My son] has said that your [books] have more than prepared him for his science courses at college, and he has done extremely well in the chemistry and physics classes. He has said many times how thankful he was to have used your programs.
While I am always happy to know how well my books have prepared students for studying science at the university level, what struck me about the E-MAIL was how I wasn’t at all surprised by the fact that her son was majoring in physics and piano performance. I would think most people would do a double-take at that duo of majors. However, it didn’t surprise me at all, since homeschool graduates are amazingly well-rounded.
The International Medical Council on Vaccination disseminates a lot of misinformation regarding vaccines. It claims to offer resources that will aid in “critical thinking for a critical dilemma.” Unfortunately, it does quite the opposite. It uses scaremongering and shoddy science in an effort to get people to stop giving critical medical care to their children.
They will be hosting a live debate on Monday, December 13th at 8 PM Central Time. The title of the debate is “Do Vaccines Cause Autism?” I have been asked to defend the scientific answer, which of course, is no. The debate is free, but you should sign up for it in advance. You can do that here.
If you have been deceived by those who want you to believe that vaccines cause autism, you might want to attend the debate so you can learn the actual science behind vaccination. If you know the science behind vaccines and therefore realize that they don’t cause autism, the debate might still be an interesting thing to attend so that you can see the shoddy science used by the anti-vaccination movement.
“NASA Finds New Life Form” is the headline on the Fox News website. The article says:
NASA has discovered a new life form, a bacteria called GFAJ-1 that is unlike anything currently living in planet Earth. It’s capable of using arsenic to build its DNA, RNA, proteins, and cell membranes. This changes everything…NASA is saying that this is “life as we do not know it”. The reason is that all life on Earth is made of six components: Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. Every being, from the smallest amoeba to the largest whale, share the same life stream. Our DNA blocks are all the same. That was true until today.
While the NASA team has done something quite amazing, Fox News and other similar outlets have really over-hyped it. Not surprisingly, to get the real story, you must read the scientific article, which is groundbreaking indeed, but not in the way that the standard media outlets are saying.