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Not So Dry Bones: An interview with Mary Schweitzer

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July 21, 2014 Tags: Education, History of Life, Science as Christian Calling

Today's entry was written by Emily Ruppel and features Mary Schweitzer. You can read more about what we believe here.

Not So Dry Bones: An interview with Mary Schweitzer
Image credit: J.M. Luijt [CC-BY-SA-2.5-nl]

In 2005 paleontologist Mary Schweitzer made a discovery that rumbled with implications for the way scientists think about fossils, about cells, and about what humans can know concerning the history of life on our planet. While studying the thigh bone of a T. rex unearthed in 2000, Mary found the first evidence for soft tissues in a 68-million-year-old bone. Challenging long-held assumptions about how fossils form and are preserved, Mary’s research may open the door to new ways of studying and understanding the many creatures that have come before us.

Mary was kind enough to take a few moments to talk to us about her life, her faith, and her path into the intersection of biology and paleontology.

How did you get your start as a scientist?

I guess you could say it started before my older brother left home for college, because he taught me to read, and when he was gone, he sent me books to encourage me to keep reading. One of the books he sent is a book I still love, called The Enormous Egg. When he came home for a visit I told him I would grow up to be a paleontologist. I was five.

Fast forwarding, after I had my kids I went back to school to pursue a career in medicine, and was taking premed courses when I realized that path wasn’t going to be feasible with three small children. So, I got a degree in secondary education instead, with the goal of teaching science—my rationale was that I wanted to be teaching high school by the time my kids got there… And around that time I also audited a class on dinosaurs taught by renowned Jack Horner—it was my first course in a very long time in the sciences. Horner walked in the first day and set down a box of bones and said to the class, “Tell me about these.” It was the hardest course I ever took for no credit; I worked very hard and still only got a mediocre grade. But, I was hooked.

I think the thing that surprised me most about that class was that I had no idea, coming from a conservative Christian background, that scientists are not all trying to disprove God in whatever way they can. What we were not told growing up is that there’s a lot of very rigorous, hard science that allows us to interpret the lives of organisms we’ve never seen—and knowing this made me rethink a few things, because I know God and God is not a deceiver. If you step back a little bit and let God be God I don’t think there’s any contradiction at all between the Bible and what we see in nature. He is under no obligation to meet our expectations. He is bigger than that.

When I got started doing this I was very fortunate that I lived in Bozeman and could study under Jack, who happens to be one of the foremost leaders in paleohistology. He would rather learn about the biology of dinosaurs than get another fancy skeleton on display, so he’s a proponent of destructive sampling when necessary.

I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to spend three months in the field like other paleontologists, so a histology project where you slice up bone and look at it under a microscope was a great fit. The first T. rex slice I looked at was a sample from a very well preserved skeleton from Eastern Montana, still with bones aligned as in life. Under the microscope, I noticed these round red structures only present in the vessel channels—they had a solid core, and a translucent outer part that together looked very much like a nucleus. Jack challenged me to prove they were NOT red blood cells, and from that, I learned the role of science is to disprove, not prove. That project got me started looking at bones in a different way.

Why do you think you were the first to make this observation?

Part of it was I had a really strong background in biology, especially cellular biology—the majority of paleontologists at that time came from a geology background. So a mixture of that background and the fact that this was a special dinosaur to start with both played a role in our discoveries. It was definitely not planned, not something I could have arranged if I tried, and I think God gets a lot of credit for that. There’s definitely a reason God wants me to do this work, and it’s not easy, because science is conservative. If you’re going against traditional wisdom you’re not very popular, and the burden of proof is on you, if you make claims that are new.

For three hundred years we thought we knew how fossils formed—that an animal died, was buried, and all the organics rotted away, leaving small spaces that later filled with mineral. But that explanation never accounted for some things we see in fossils, like skin for example. Yet what this meant—the implications of it, were not considered by most paleontologists. Finding soft tissues that responded to our tests like modern materials in many ways, suggested that after three hundred years of looking at this stuff, we don’t know as much as we thought. It’s also hard because, being a Christian evolutionary biologist, I receive a lot of mail that is not fun—fellow Christians suspect my faith, and scientific colleagues suspect my science. But I have no agenda, except to produce data.

Were you nervous before publishing about soft tissue in dinosaur bones?

Yes, very. After we had the data, I didn’t publish for over a year. I was terrified. First of all, I don’t like attention or the spotlight and I knew this was going to get a lot of attention. I’m not surprised that the response of the community has been skeptical, and I guess I’m grateful for that because the scrutiny has made me much more cautious and therefore, made me a much better scientist. I go above what is usually required to validate my data before I publish—my colleagues are just doing their jobs to be skeptical, a scientist’s job is not to prove things but to question them.

One thing that does bother me, though, is that young earth creationists take my research and use it for their own message, and I think they are misleading people about it. Pastors and evangelists, who are in a position of leadership, are doubly responsible for checking facts and getting things right, but they have misquoted me and misrepresented the data. They’re looking at this research in terms of a false dichotomy [science versus faith] and that doesn’t do anybody any favors. Still, it’s not surprising they’ve reacted this way—the bone that I first studied I got from Jack, and when I gave him our initial results he was rather angry—I called him a few times and by my third call he said, “Dammit Mary the creationists are just going to love you.” But I said, “This is just what the data say— I’m not making it up.”

I don’t think my being a Christian has anything to do with the fact that the data I’m proposing is challenging. I’ve only had one or two people say they don’t trust my science because of my faith. So if I’m doing science according to the rules, which I’m doing to honor God, and I’m aware that anything and everything I do could be proven wrong tomorrow, then my job is to be as careful and cautious as I can and not overstate my data. All I can do is the best that I can do.

So, that leaves us with two alternatives for interpretation: either the dinosaurs aren’t as old as we think they are, or maybe we don’t know exactly how these things get preserved. We’ve known for a while that skin gets preserved. It’s the same with anything controversial—for example, it was decades ago now that somebody first proposed that continents move, and everybody laughed and said that shouldn’t be possible. Nowadays if you say that isn’t true you’d be a laughingstock. DNA, too—nobody wanted to believe that DNA was the carrier of biological information because it’s too simple a molecule.

Any time you turn over a theory that has taken a lot of work to establish, of course challenging that theory should be hard. That’s why when we were preparing to publish, we did these things again and again and again. Even so, people criticized me saying we should have had more data, but there was no way to get more data without more funding and no way to get more funding without publishing our initial results. The scientific response was exactly what it should be: a “wait and see” response. I have a lot of respect for the people who wouldn’t just immediately accept our results.

Even now, I wouldn’t say it’s widely accepted that what we’re seeing is soft tissue from dinosaurs. What I wish would happen is more people would follow up on this. These results are not trivial to attain, and it requires a lot of repetition on specialized instruments. Because we cross so many disciplines in the effort to get molecular information from fossil bone, I think it’s easier to publish in other areas. Also, we’ve found that the longer a bone sits on the shelf, the less likely you are to find anything, so museum specimens, no matter how ‘pretty’, are not the best for our work. Bones that become fossils have been in stasis with the environment for millions of years, and then when we dig them up they are exposed to light and oxygen—which makes the degradation that had been arrested start again. I don’t think what we’re doing here will really be accepted widely, until lots of different groups are doing it regularly. But it’s hard, it’s controversial, it’s expensive, and it’s done inside in a lab—and most paleontologists like to be outside, in the field.

How has your research influenced your faith, and your relationships with other Christians?

I think probably you better ask other Christians! I really don’t know. But, I do go to pretty conservative churches. One time I was visiting a church and the pastor got up and started preaching a sermon about people not being related to apes, and he started talking about this scientist in Montana who discovered red blood cells in dinosaur bones—he didn’t know I was in the audience—and it was my research he was talking about! Unfortunately, he got everything wrong. I just got up and left. I don’t feel that I’m discrediting God with the work I’m doing, I think I am honoring him with the abilities he’s given me.

One of the churches I go to is very conservative—But the pastor and I have discussed what I do, and we have agreed to disagree on some things. I think that’s the appropriate attitude to have—after all, God is the only one who knows for sure—he is the only one who was there.

I go to church because I want to learn and be held accountable. I want to learn more and more about what the Bible teaches, and in a lot of progressive churches you don’t get that as much—you get politics, building projects, etc. Everyone has to figure out what they need and why they go to church. The hunger in me which is fed in the churches I go to has to do with the fact that they preach right out of the Bible, and I need that. I guess I don’t go to church to hear political views and hear about how they need money—I go to hear about God.

What’s one thing you wish everyone knew about you?

Well I guess I’m just a pretty ordinary person. I make a lot of mistakes and I try to live my life as best as I can. I take my work very seriously because I believe that honors God. But —I don’t how to put it exactly—my work is what I do, not who I am. I know I could be wrong; as a scientist I can only say what the data say. And I think the one thing I think I would like everyone to know is I how proud I am of my kids and how blessed I am to have them in my lives, and they are the greatest gift other than Jesus that I could have.

One other thing I might say is that I’ve gotten a lot of pretty cruel, harsh, judgmental emails over the years—and if you’re a Christian saying things like that, it’s no wonder my colleagues don’t want anything to do with faith. Christianity is about love, and these are not really loving responses to anything.

If you believe 24/7 creation is really the only interpretation possible and ignore tons of evidence that the earth is billions of years old and that life was a simple construct that got way more complex over time, that’s fine—we may be wrong about the science (I don’t think we are, but as a scientist I have to leave that minute possibility open). I think that parents need to tell their kids that there are a lot of REASONS scientists say what they do, and virtually NONE of those reasons are to disprove God’s existence. That doesn’t enter in. I’ve had lots of students come into my office in tears over the years, saying, “I don’t understand…” The thing is, if you go with the scientific evidence and it turns out to be wrong, I don’t think God is going to punish you for that; God made us curious people. I believe we should step back a little bit and consider other views equally—anything less is doing God and your child a disservice.

We don’t have all the answers and never will. And I think that when God says that he is revealed in his creation, I think that means we need to take care of what we have and understand where we came from. The more I understand how things work, the bigger God gets. When he was just a magician pulling things out of a hat, that doesn’t even compare to how I see him now!


Emily Ruppel is a doctoral student in rhetoric of science at the University of Pittsburgh. Prior to her PhD work, she studied poetry at Bellarmine University in Louisville and science writing at MIT. She has also served as blog editor for The BioLogos Foundation and as Associate Director of Communications for the American Scientific Affiliation.
 


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dcscccc . - #86018

July 21st 2014

101 evidences for a young age of the earth and the universe:

 

http://creation.com/age-of-the-earth

impressive


g kc - #86019

July 21st 2014

“… Mary found the first evidence for soft tissues in a 68-million-year-old bone. Challenging long-held assumptions about how fossils form and are preserved…”

 

What I found most remarkable back then in 2005 is the questions which were asked, or more exactly, not asked.

 

This was an amazing, headline-grabbing discovery. The scientists realized they had been so wrong about something. But what something? Remember, essentially two major pieces of conventional scientific wisdom were in play here:

1)     This was a 68 million year-old bone, and

2)     Fossilization, if it happens at all, completes within a short time of death. (I remember reading accounts at the time which said within 10,000 years of death, another 100,000 years.)

 

The one question which was essentially asked was “How could the earlier conventional wisdom about fossilization been wrong by several orders of magnitude?”

 

Scientists like to sound so certain, so precise. Not 60 million years-old bone, not about 70 million years-old. No, 68 million years-old. [Or Wikipedia’s “The best measurement of the age of the universe is 13.798±0.037 billion years ((13.798±0.037)×109 years or (4.354±0.012)×1017 seconds) within the Lambda-CDM concordance model.[1][2] ]

 

Yet we find that their “exactitude” can be off by several orders of magnitude. This is like a decades-long, universal consensus of the medical community saying “Disease X is deadly and extremely rapid in its effects; anyone contracting it will die within 30 days.” And then being surprised by discovering several people with confirmed diagnoses of Disease X who went on to live 80 years.

 

The one question which was never asked was “Could our understanding of fossilization timing actually be good and, instead, could the conventional wisdom about the age of this bone be wrong by several orders of magnitude?”

 

Maybe some scientist did think of asking this question. But he wanted to keep his job.


darwin.dissenters - #86023

July 21st 2014

I’m sorry Mary has received unpleasant messages from creationists. We ought to have a respectful dialogue. Having said that trying to study in a secular university as a creationist is not a lot of fun either, and theistic evolutionists have been known to undermine creationists. We need an end to this turf war. I would urge Mary and biologos to engage more with creationists and to acknowledge that fresh data may force us to revaluate our theoretical framework. 

Furtermore, we can’t just dismiss creationism as being engaged in a struggle between science and faith. Creationists love, science, they just have a different starting point, one which allows the Bible to speak into science as an authentic historical record. 


Merv - #86024

July 21st 2014

This would seem to be a good example of agendas (and fear of agendas) deeply stifling what should be / have been a healthy scientific curiousity.

So have Dr. Schweitzer’s findings ever been addressed or answered?  If one looks at some sources motivated by an opposite agenda as commentors above such as this talk origins site article responding to the alleged dino blood; they report that many creationists have jumped to a [false] conclusion that red blood cells were found when in fact they were shown not to be cells at all.  Dr. Schweitzer in this interview makes it sound like that could have still been slightly up in the air.  Did she ever succeed in disproving they were cells?

It would be cool if this was a part 1 so we could hear more of her subsequent experiences.  The quote from Jack is rather damning, but it does illustrate how frightened a scientist can be of being misconstrued to be on the side of “those dreaded YECs”.  All rather unfortunate for the whole enterprise of open inquiry.

And no, dcscccc and g kc, this does nothing to diminish the mountains of deep time evidence that young-earthers so rarely acknowledge.  Their agenda too, has unfortunate consequences for their own selective pursuit of truth. The two sides play off each other rather dramatically.


g kc - #86029

July 21st 2014

Here’s another article on Mary Schweitzer’s discovery, with some of Mary’s own words. The article’s title appears to hail the solution to the mystery of millions-of-years preservation of soft tissue: “Controversial T. Rex Soft Tissue Find Finally Explained”. http://www.livescience.com/41537-t-rex-soft-tissue.html

 

However, after reading the article, and then re-looking at the title, one may come to the realization that the word “explained” can, and in this case does, mean “speculated on”. [I spent some time on this very issue of scientific “explanations” in Jim Stump’s latest – “Belief in God in a World Explained by Science, part 3”.]

The mystery has not been solved at all. Just “explained”:

“Dinosaurs’ iron-rich blood, combined with a good environment for fossilization, may explain the amazing existence of soft tissue from the Cretaceous (a period that lasted from about 65.5 million to 145.5 million years ago) and even earlier…

“They soaked one group of blood vessels in iron-rich liquid made of red blood cells and another group in water. The blood vessels left in water turned into a disgusting mess within days. The blood vessels soaked in red blood cells remain recognizable after sitting at room temperature for two years.”

Two years does not 145 million years, or even just 68 million years, make.

Neither Mary nor any other evolutionist has a sensible, plausible, verifiable “explanation” for this tissue preservation. It’s no wonder that Mary admitted she was “terrified” to publish her findings. 


Merv - #86033

July 22nd 2014

I had also noticed in at least one explanatory article (I notice that the same article seems to be widely circulated among many news agencies) that perhaps circumstances can preserve soft tissue for millennia.  But that concession is still several orders of magnitude short of the target. 


bren - #86041

July 23rd 2014

g kc,

I haven’t taken the time to read your discussion of the word “explanation”, but I’m not really sure what huge gulf we are supposed to see between “explained” and “solved”.  From the looks of it, you are suggesting that to solve something is to amass evidence for it in addition to providing an “explanation”.  Well, nothing wrong with defining your terms.  Either way, you seem to take issue with her having an explanation at all, as though not a peep should come out of her until she performs the in vitro long-term stability testing of iron cross-linked organic samples for the next 145 million years.  I’m not quite sure why she is being called upon to remain silent with her suggestions.  She isn’t exactly forwarding this proposal as an established fact, she is up front about it as a hypothesis, so it’s hard to see what the objection is supposed to be.  It can’t be that she is being dishonest, since she is being clear about the status of the explanation, so it must be that it is somehow wrong to suggest explanations at all.  I’ll let you explain why you take that ethical position if you think it necessary (or ethical!).

Maybe this question is being framed in the wrong way.  She offered a plausible explanation that has no data to falsify it and some preliminary data that supports it.  To make it more than a good hypothesis or a reasonable explanation, much work would still need to be done.  But given that scientists were surprised at finding soft tissues, it isn’t at all a bad idea to bring such explanations into the public eye so that they can be considered and debated.  Even if the presence of iron is not a complete explanation (she doesn’t seem to think that it is), her initial tests seem to confirm that it at least was a partial contributing factor to the stability of the samples, and she names other factors that were probably also involved.
I think the real problem for many people is not that she happens to have hypotheses or explanations for the unexpected (this is a pretty normal activity for scientists), it’s that she didn’t look at the data, throw up her hands and conclude that all other repeatedly confirmed and corroborated information that confirms deep time must be wrong, and these dinos must only be a few thousand years old.  Maybe this is her big gaffe, but I think I can suggest some reasons why she decided to present such hypotheses and explanations instead of using this as ammunition to reject the overall findings in her field. 
First, it isn’t normal procedure to simply cancel out one data set by using another data set.  You don’t get to cancel out the results of established dating methods, as though they had never been obtained, just because you have a result that you didn’t expect (soft tissue).  Something needs to be explained (not neutralized or cancelled) and this is why she got to work, which leads me in my next point to ask why she chose to explain the lengthy stability instead of choosing to elaborate on the incorrectness of all previous dating methods:
The reason that she set out to see how tissues could be preserved for such lengthy periods instead of taking it from the other angle and trying to establish that the dinosaurs are only a few thousand years old is probably the following: it is never a reasonable strategy to try to explain the known by the unknown.  We do have a great deal of data that supports the antiquity of these samples (call this the known) but we don’t have any data to support the maximum stability of soft tissues under these conditions (call this the unknown).  We know what happens to soft tissue when it is not acted upon by some preservative (iron in this case) and protected from air and humidity.  It falls apart pretty quickly.  But what about when the tissues are under a different set of conditions that are not fully known?  Scientists were surprised at her findings, but this is only because such long-term preservation has not otherwise been observed, not because such
long-term preservation is known to be impossible for other reasons.  Soft tissue preservation is not a known dating method, and it would be unreasonable to throw out solid results from a variety of complimentary dating methods due to on results that have no clear implications at all about the antiquity of the samples.  Would you suggest otherwise?  Should we begin a new phase in the sciences by explaining the clear in terms of the ambiguous, the accurate in terms of the inaccurate and the known in terms of the unknown?  Do you have the data, entirely absent otherwise, that shows that samples under such conditions must degrade by such and such a date?  That would be an actual contradiction and may impel a new approach.
I frequently test the stability of proteins under various conditions, and when I look at the results, it is always a matter of finding the maximum known stability, not the maximum stability, since if the proteins are proven to still be stable at the end of the testing period, it isn’t reasonable to conclude that they will therefore be degraded the very next day.  The soft tissue findings were a surprise, but only because they had an impact on the maximum known stability of soft tissues under specific conditions, not because it was known that they must have been degraded past a certain point.  What she dealt with and dealt with well, was not a contradictory finding, but an unknown that needed a hypothesis.  Makes sense to let her and her colleagues get to work on that, no?


g kc - #86043

July 23rd 2014

Bren,

Against my better judgment, I’ll give you another try, despite the unpleasant experience with you on “Evolution Basics: At the Frontiers of Evolution, Part 2: Abiogenesis…”

My discussion of the word “explanation” was not extensive but is relevant here. I’ll reproduce it for your convenience:

Begin—

You [Jim Stump] use the words “explain” or “explanation” thirty-two times in this article. E.g. “as science progresses and explains more of the gaps… Science appears to be able to give a complete explanation for how things work.”

I had a thought today, that “explanation” is a poor choice of words in many contexts, but especially in the context of evolution.

Without the explicit use of a modifier, the implied modifier [for “explanation”] is something like “valid”, “true”, “verifiable”. And I think you may be implying those modifiers here. I’m sure we could find many examples of scientific “explanations” which were widely accepted but which later turned out to be wrong.

A parent can provide his four year-old child an explanation of how the gifts got under the Christmas tree (i.e. Santa). A physicist can provide an explanation for the seeming impossibility of our set of universal constants being dialed in randomly/accidentally (i.e. multiverse theory). Both are explanations. But in the former case, it’s a useful fairytale; in the latter, wild speculation.

Science should not be in the business of providing “explanations”, per se. It should be in the business of providing  verifiable or provable explanations.

And I submit that evolutionary scientists have provided zero such explanations.

End—

 

Now, regarding my comments on this article, if you re-read them you’ll see that I made no criticism of Mary Schweitzer in particular or her work. Rather I pointed out that

1)     While they admitted they were seriously shocked by the discovery, no one in the “evolutionary science community” seriously broached even the possibility that they were seriously wrong about the dating of the bone (rather than wrong about the “dating” of fossilization and preservation).

2)     Because they’ve bought into the evolution story, the “evolutionary science community’s” media (e.g. Livescience.com, Nature, National Geographic, PNAS), as well as the mainstream media, continually downplay or even ignore the weaknesses of evolutionary science. They not only downplay or ignore the weaknesses, they massage the language to make the weaknesses appear as strengths (e.g. The Livescience headline: “Controversial T. Rex Soft Tissue Find Finally Explained”).  But the scientists’ publicists (i.e. the media) are only partly at fault. For the scientists themselves feed the media the story that ‘evolution is as good as a fact’/’no serious scientist disbelieves in evolution’ despite the fact that virtually every original source, peer-reviewed paper is filled with speculation and the words to match (e.g. the evolution of X “may have”, “could be”, “possibly is”, “is hypothesized to be”, “requires more investigation”. But what’s never in doubt is that X evolved.)

 

You wrote “But given that scientists were surprised at finding soft tissues, it isn’t at all a bad idea to bring such explanations into the public eye so that they can be considered and debated.”

I agree.

But, as part of considering and debating the tissue issue, I wonder if anyone has submitted the soft tissue (and bone) to blind radiometric dating at multiple labs. [It should go without saying, but I better say it: By “blind” I mean the testers have zero knowledge of the source or identity of the samples; for the testers they’re just a sample of tissue and bone that could be from anything.]

I’d be most interested in seeing the full results. It never hurts to “double-check”, and re-confirm your beliefs. The researchers have nothing to fear. Or at least, the searchers for truth have nothing to fear.

 

Why do you think Mary was “terrified”? 


bren - #86047

July 24th 2014

G kc

Thanks for providing the text of your earlier discussion.  I know I could have tracked it down myself, but I didn’t think it was all that critical since it seemed like semantics at the time.  What you wrote clarifies that I was a bit wrong about how you see the word explanation.  You think that “evolutionary explanations” are improper since the explanations offered by scientists should all be modified or modifiable by such words as “verfied” etc.  “Suggested” or “proposed”, for I know not what reason, should not enter into the public vocabulary of scientists.  If modifiers like “verified” were actually appended, it seems likely that you would now view the phrase as an oxymoron because evolution fails to verifiably explain anything and consists almost entirely of wild speculations and fairy tales according to your lights.  Your Santa Clause analogy makes your position clear.  While I appreciate the clarification, this is an opinion,
and opinions aren’t really open to debate or disproof, so I’ll leave you to it.

I can disagree and show you why I disagree when it comes to any paper or book that contributed to your opinion, but there is little or nothing to be done with an opinion on its own.  If it came from a scientist, I would pay some attention and if it came from a biologist, I would pay even more attention, but in either case, I would first ask if there was any religious bias that might be swaying their opinion (are they conservative Christians or Muslims?).  Other biases would be important too, but to different degrees.  If they had a very contrary character, maybe they just like a fight and their opinions should be closely questioned!  If they are militant atheists, I would be careful of their bias (like using words such as “purposeless” to describe evolution when no actual findings could possibly warrant such inferences), but I would also keep in mind that for whatever reason, atheists tend to take the scientific method far more seriously than
creationists (for example they don’t have a habit of signing young earth belief statements before submitting papers to “their” journals;-), so I would consider them biased, but at least largely open to correction from new scientific evidence.  If they had no known religious bias or bias of any kind, I would then be quite surprised and it would be a first in my experience, so I would suddenly be much more interested in their opinion and where it comes from even if I could do little to debate it.  I would see them as being in a position to critique the scientific findings in detail, while for a non-scientist, I would only see them as being in a position to critique the media distorted presentation of the scientific findings or to digest and parrot other creationist writings, which is fine, but is much less interesting or relevant to questions of truth.

Here’s where I’ll agree with you; within the sciences (all of the sciences), there are differing degrees of speculation and differing degrees of available evidence.  For particular pathways, selection pressures and in this case, the impact of various factors on soft tissue preservation, there can be little or much data and it is up to the scientist to emphasize what level of confidence they have reason to invest in the results.  The media can’t be trusted when it comes to being tentative since they want to sell themselves by announcing everything out of the ordinary with trumpets (I would probably agree with you there too), but in scientific papers that are the targets of strong, sustained and technical criticism from other scientists, and that are the platforms from which an idea can be powerfully shot down or vindicated, the authors are liable to hedge their bets, offer counter arguments before other scientists get to it and show caution where it
is demanded.

On the other hand, for natural selection as a critical mechanism, evolution as an overarching theory and common descent as description of natural history, the science is considered to be extremely solid by the vast majority of scientists, irrespective yours or my opinions.  They are not hiding data, faking confidence and twisting arms, they are genuinely confident in the success and explanatory power of the theory.  If you suspect otherwise, and it seems that you do lean towards some kind of a conspiracy theory, it is of course up to you to accuse them directly of lying and then to back that up.  To simply claim it does not go nearly far enough and ultimately is a time waster all around.

You also seem worried about some of the words that scientists often use, including “may have”, “could be”, “possibly is”, “is hypothesized to be”, “requires more investigation”, making the case that this is a particularity of evolutionary biologists.  I can’t imagine why you aren’t comfortable with these terms.  I would be extremely worried if they didn’t use such words whenever offering a conjecture.  It is standard practice in scientific papers to point out both what are the solid and unassailable results of their investigation (there is usually some solid conclusion, even if that conclusion is quite modest, or the paper would not printed) and then to speculate on the possible implications of this finding, including future lines of investigation.  This is standard in all sciences, particularly sciences that are extremely fruitful because of access to great stores of new data, like biology, so if you see this pattern in most
papers (“here’s what we found, here’s what this finding supports and here’s what it may also imply, to be further investigated”), it is exactly in keeping with the best traditions of the scientific world, the very traditions that allow scientists to pin down solid results as well as to map out future lines of investigation.  The careful distinction between solid and tentative results is actually exemplary, and if it is not always followed by non-scientists, this can’t easily be policed.

Now, for point number “1)”, I very specifically answered that in the last post with a series of points.  I stated that it is not the scientific practice to judge something that is considered to be very reliable and accurate (dating methods, carefully done in order to avoid known pitfalls such as contamination or inappropriate sample selection) by something that is not at all considered to be reliable and that has no clear dating implications whatsoever (organic sample preservation under highly conservative conditions).  This is a logical distinction to make and the fact that the scientists immediately began looking at what conditions could contribute to extended sample stability is a measure of which side is seen as the known factor and which is seen as the unknown factor.  I also pointed out that you don’t get to just supersede all of the results of previous investigations about the antiquity of the dinosaurs, just because you get results that
are surprising but not even contradictory to those results.  It doesn’t make sense; to supersede a huge body of accepted evidence and quantitative results, you need to carefully decide why they are all wrong or irrelevant and this has simply not been done by any stretch of the imagination.  You didn’t respond to this, but just repeated your question/accusation against the scientific community, so I’m guessing that you missed my response.

“2)” appears to be your impression of the scientific community and feeds into a conspiracy theory mindset.  I’ve never seen anything like it on either side of the curtain (certainly not in the scientific literature or the in-house scientific debates), so to me, this conspiracy theory is the real fairy tale until someone bothers to give it actual substance.  Again, I can hardly vouch for the media, since they often seem intemperate in how the present things in any field, often writing up conjectures as solid solutions.  But no, they are not puppets of the illuminati, they are just reporters doing what reporters have always done (you don’t sell papers with “perhaps”).  I have again heard your opinion on the devious games that the evolutionists are playing, but since I don’t see this actually happening amongst scientists, I see nothing further to comment on or critique.  (I already dealt with conjectural terms above).  I’m trying to see what
evidence for a conspiracy you might be referencing in this paragraph; if scientists are presenting themselves as being completely confident in evolution as a unifying theory, I would be inclined to think they are not exactly committing perjury, since their internal dialogues seem consistent with this confidence, with any tentativeness being reserved for subordinate fields of inquiry.


bren - #86048

July 24th 2014

Continued…

For your “blind radiometric dating suggestion (you didn’t really need to describe the term “blind”, which is a critical concept in my line of work, but thanks anyway;-) it is in theory a good one.  I don’t know if this was done or not and I don’t know whether the samples were ample enough or amenable to such testing.  I would be inclined to think that blinding the test lab would not be strictly necessary, since so long as they follow strict GLP procedures, there is no reason to suspect manipulation of the results, but blinding is often done anyway and is a good control, so I would generally agree.  Usually blinding is only done only to preclude falsification and dishonesty, so I am not surprised that someone who already views so many evolutionists as snake-oil salesmen would insist on this procedure (assuming that I’m not misrepresenting your opinion).  If it was not done, I find it unlikely that it was avoided in order to avoid getting at the truth (this would be a very bold accusation, and you at the very least seem to be insinuating something like it; this would be tantamount to an accusation of dishonesty so I would be careful before running with that idea, especially since she seems to be a Christian…) and more likely that there were technical reasons, such as the above, that constrained them.  Don’t know until I do some background research.

Why do I think Mary was terrified?  Ask Mary, I don’t make it a habit to read minds and I can think of a large number of very plausible reasons that all have one thing in common; they don’t involve her being scared that this will somehow “let the cat out of the bag”.  If you can’t think of any such reasons, I’ll leave it to your creativity to give it a second shot (though you seem to have somehow made up your mind about what scared her, apparently without reference to any explanation that she happens to have made).  If you still want some suggestions about what she may have been referring to, I will of course give it my best shot, but I don’t see the point of the exercise until you are upfront with what seems like a latent accusation, if not of her, then at least of the scientific community to which she belongs (if it isn’t a latent accusation, what exactly is it?  What deep secret are we supposed to discover in her fear?  If none, then why mention it?).


g kc - #86051

July 24th 2014

Bren,

“On the other hand, for natural selection as a critical mechanism, evolution as an overarching theory and common descent as description of natural history, the science is considered to be extremely solid by the vast majority of scientists…”

Natural selection as a critical mechanism? I disagree very much.

First, what is natural selection other than the observation that some things survive to propagate and some don’t, and an observation with little if any predictive value? NS seems to be just the common circular reasoning of “survival of the fittest”. Who survives? The fit. Who are the fit? Those who survive. [E.g. Weren’t the dinosaurs more “fit” than anything else, as big and powerful kings of the earth? Why didn’t they survive? Why do we still have sloths and snails?]

Second, and more importantly, nature’s “selection” matters only if nature has something to select from. But where did the “from” (i.e. organs and organisms) come from? I’d say what is critical is not “natural selection”. What is critical is a proverbial primordial soup of chemicals somehow ultimately providing the form and function - the eyes, ears, wings, fins, brains, etc. -  from which nature deigns to select for survival. Regarding the candidates for selection, evolutionary scientists, armed with nothing but speculations, just say ‘they evolved’. They resort not to a ‘god of the gaps’ but rather to ‘evolution of the gaps’. And what a gaping gap it is.

Also, on what basis would “common descent” be a description of natural history? Certainly not on the basis of observed similarities of form and function. Such form and function are scripted by DNA, but I think you earlier objected aggressively that similarity in DNA is not the argument for supporting evolution/common descent.

 

P.S.

One would think that conducting, and publicizing the results of, those blind radiometric tests on the tissue and bone might help to quiet down those creationists, even the ones in Mary’s conservative church. It certainly wouldn’t help the creationists’ cause and would only serve to invigorate the evolutionists. Seems like a ‘win-win’.

I wonder why the tests haven’t been performed. 


bren - #86054

July 24th 2014

G kc,

The fossils in question were found in the Hell creek formation and it seems that this formation has been reliably dated using several independent dating methods (see G. Brent Dalrymple, 2000).  Where exactly did you think that they got the rather exact date of 68 million years?  At least one of the reasons why further radiometric dating was not done is because it simply wasn’t a point in doubt.  Scientists have a tendency to rely on data that they already have when that data is considered to be solid and stringent.  If the fossils had been found in a different formation, it would have a different date, and if the fossils were from 3000 BC, it will be left in your capable hands to explain how it ended up buried in 68 million year old sandstone.  You can rile about it not being enough, but for the scientific world, if you use multiple reliable methods in a careful manner and they converge on the same results, those results are considered to be reliable
no matter who doesn’t happen to like the outcome.  To sum up, the only reason further testing isn’t done is because (a) it is completely redundant since the age of the fossils has already been established (b) it would only be done to satisfy clamoring creationists who refuse to accept the first dating results that the rest of the scientific community find to be uncontroversial and (c) clamoring creationists cannot be so satisfied anyway, as demonstrated by point (b).  The manner in which these fossils were dated is not a secret and I can’t imagine how you can fail to find, or if found, to mention such publically available information, instead choosing to insinuate that the scientists involved lacked integrity or an interest in getting at the truth.  Is it possible that you had not bothered checking to see if she had reasons for saying that the fossils were 68 million years old or did you simply think such reasons unworthy of mention?

It seems you have chosen to introduce a discussion of natural selection as a tautology, though I’m afraid I don’t see how this responds to anything I said.  You ran with the rather venerable argument that the entire community of evolutionary biologists are dumb enough to have based their life’s work on a silly tautology that none of them happened to notice.  This is an absurd enough premise to begin with, unlikely enough that I would have thought it would cause you to doubt your course of action before choosing to repeat such an argument.  I first remember reading this in one of Gould’s essays and he lambasted it rather well.  Still, since you have given the standard argument in a standard format, I’ll just refer you to a formulation of the standard answer: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolphil/tautology.html you c,an argue it on that site, since it is both off topic and a waste of time to respond when that response was already available during the lifetime of Darwin.  Whatever you happen to think about natural selection and its secret internal failings, it
does not respond to my point, since I was only claiming that natural selection is generally regarded as being uncontroversial in the scientific community.  By the way, your disagreement with the importance of natural selection was stated with such confidence and so categorically that I’m left wondering what line of reasoning could possibly lead you to such an absence of self doubt, and to such distain for scientific training and conclusions.

Your say against common descent is also off topic, and since you do not appear to know any of the arguments for common descent, or at least you seem unsure about the exact nature of the only one you brought up, the only thing left is to suggest references, most of which are summarized on-line in many places (start with a search and if nothing comes up, I can point to some sites).  I’m not sure how you can debate against points with which you seem to have no familiarity but your point wasn’t lengthy so maybe you had more to say on the subject.  Otherwise, I would actually be interested in hearing your response to my arguments instead of entering into new topics that are better dealt with elsewhere, and you don’t seem to have responded to any of my points, so please let me know if there is one of them that you’d like to deal with.


g kc - #86056

July 24th 2014

Bren,

Just to be clear, although I don’t like using the term “natural selection”, I have no problem whatsoever with the general concept it’s supposed to convey (i.e. Organisms best adapted to their environment tend to survive and reproduce). I don’t think anybody has a problem with this. Everyone can understand why snowshoe hares do well in the Arctic but not at the equator, why whales do well in water but not on land, why humans with a genetic disease don’t do well. But to me, the concept is so basic and obvious that it’s not even worth mentioning. Everything dies, some live longer than others, and generally we can easily see why. Yet you say NS is critical.

 

Here’s what I thought was a fascinating example of evolution. Let’s review two different statements:

Statement 1:

“On the other hand, for natural selection as a critical mechanism, evolution as an overarching theory and common descent as description of natural history, the science is considered to be extremely solid by the vast majority of scientists…

 

It would appear, that the author is saying that, in evolution, natural selection is critical, supported by solid science and by the vast majority of scientists

 

But such strong sentiments evolve into

Statement 2:

“… I was only claiming that natural selection is generally regarded as being uncontroversial in the scientific community.”

 

The strength of “critical”, “solid”, “vast” evolves into the much softer “generally regarded as being uncontroversial”. So, the weaker, evolved statement 2 means NS is controversial in the science community, that NS is not uncontroversial in the community. Perhaps you’d say this was only subtle change, or not a change at all. I would disagree. And here I thought evolution was supposed to happen very slowly.

 

 

I see you completely ignored my second point about natural selection, which I had deliberately bolded as being more important. I’ll replay it for your convenience:

“Second, and more importantly, nature’s “selection” matters only if nature has something to select from. But where did the “from” (i.e. organs and organisms) come from? I’d say what is critical is not “natural selection”. What is critical is a proverbial primordial soup of chemicals somehow ultimately providing the form and function - the eyes, ears, wings, fins, brains, etc. -  from which nature deigns to select for survival. Regarding the candidates for selection, evolutionary scientists, armed with nothing but speculations, just say ‘they evolved’. They resort not to a ‘god of the gaps’ but rather to ‘evolution of the gaps’. And what a gaping gap it is.”

 

 

Also, how are my words on “common descent” off topic? You are the one who brought it up (see again Statement 1 above). Since you think I know next to nothing about common descent, perhaps you would be kind enough to explain it to me, or link an appropriate article. I’m anxious to understand how the basis for “common descent as description of natural history” does not rely on similarities of form, function or genetics**.

** Ref: Your responses in “Evolution Basics: At the Frontiers of Evolution, Part 2: Abiogenesis” 

 

P.S.

That’s a heck of a thing that happened at Hell Creek. Do you know anything more about the reasons for the scientist being fired? Do you know if Hell Creek has an inordinate amount of iron in the rock?


GJDS - #86044

July 23rd 2014

I offer an example of how some language is used to make the most implausible ideas appear scientific; this is an extract from an article that has been published in a major newspaper read by millions of people:

 

Earthlings often wonder if life exists on other planets, and US researchers say hunting for traces of pollution from distant worlds could provide the answer.

Under certain conditions, astronomers in the next decade might be able to detect the presence of an industrialised alien society, according to a study by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics…..... An even stronger instrument, which has not been invented yet, would be necessary to find pollution on a planet like Earth that is orbiting a bright star like our sun, said the report in The Astrophysical Journal.

Note the way names are used to invoke authority, which is often equated with a deep and abiding understanding of the subject. I think those who would argue in favour of these types of communications to either, or both, the scientific community and the general public are harming the standing and credibility of serious scientists. It is regrettable that some scientists are so caught up in their culture wars, and so intent on grabbing a headline, that they will continue with such outlandish behaviour. There are many other examples of this (especially on evolution), so do not get hung up on the notion that this is just an odd case!


g kc - #86045

July 23rd 2014

After writing the last sentence of my last comment above (“Why do you think Mary was “terrified”?), I got to thinking about it some more. 

Why even the question that prompted Mary’s answer (“Were you nervous before publishing about soft tissue in dinosaur bones?”)?

 

Yes, many people would admit to being shy to some degree, to being uncomfortable to a degree with “attention or the spotlight”. But I would think this kind of shyness is more common in situations the person finds strange or unusual or unsolicited, not in situations the person seeks out. For example, a shy ten year-old boy may feel uncomfortable being the focus of attention of his grandparents when he’s dragged to their house by his parents, or when teacher calls him to the front of the class as part of the Show and Tell exercise (which he’s not interested in). But the same ten year-old is much less apt to be uncomfortable with the attention (and applause) of scores of people in the bleachers when he makes a great play at shortstop or hits a grand slam while playing the game he loves. This normally shy boy is likely to enjoy, even relish, attention in these situations.

 

Mary Schweitzer was, and is, playing the game she loves, paleontology. And she believed she was playing it well, or at least soberly and cautiously – “I go above what is usually required to validate my data before I publish.” So, if you love the “game” and hit a “homerun” playing it, why would you be uncomfortable, in fact, “terrified” of the attention and applause from your “fans in the stands”?

Maybe because she realized some of her “fans in the stands” (i.e. her side, her supporters) would be upset if she hit a homerun. “…the bone that I first studied I got from Jack, and when I gave him our initial results he was rather angry…

Why would Jack be angry? Why would Jack be angry when someone on his team hits a homerun? The “homerun” being the great surprise of discovering something new, leading the team to a win, a win for truth.

Aren’t scientists and researchers supposed to be devoted to the search for truth? Wouldn’t they almost welcome being surprised or hitting dead-ends or having their work contradicted, in the sense that we learn from our mistakes and so advance toward the good and the truth? Scientists don’t fight for paradigms or dogmas or agendas, they fight for facts and for truth.

As I noted earlier, researchers/scientists should have nothing to fear, let alone be “terrified” about.

 

Why was Mary (and perhaps other scientists) “terrified”?

 

Perhaps this subject warrants a series of articles.


Ted Davis - #86057

July 24th 2014

Why was Mary “terrified”?

The best answer will have to come from her. Everything here is speculation. I will speculate myself, by offering an historical precedent—a well known case of a scientist finding something that was completely inexplicable at the the time (though very soon quite adequately explained).

I mean Otto Hahn’s discovery Thayer uranium could produce barium when bombarded by neutrons. This was the crucial evidence leading to the discovery of fission—the idea that nuclei can be split roughly in half, not simply change slightly by alpha or beta decay. At the time (1938), physicists didn’t think fission was possible. Hahn was a chemist, an outsider among physicists. Mary’s work likewise is not traditional paleontology. She found something presently unexplained, and, like Hahn, she was afraid to publish such a revolutionary conclusion, knowing it would be scrutinized and her scientific reputation perhaps hanging in the balance,
Here is what Hahn said about his discovery: http://www.ias.ac.in/jarch/praman/33/00000010.pdf


Ted Davis - #86058

July 24th 2014

I can’t get the URL to copy successfully here, so just search for this:

“so afraid of the physicists” otto hahn

You should get an article called “Discovery of Nuclear Fission in Berlin 1938”

Hahn, of course, was not fearing the loss of his job—he was too highly placed—and he was not worried about some atheist conspiracy to silence him. He was concerned that he’d look foolish, like what later happened to those scientists who trumpeted cold fusion before it had been confirmed by others.


Ted Davis - #86099

July 31st 2014

Now that I have access to a PC, instead of just a tablet, I’ll fill in the full reference to Otto Hahn. Once he and Strassmann had determined that they were getting barium, not radium, after bombarding uranium with neutrons, here is what they thought, according to something Hahn later said:

“Therefore, we could conclude that the substances could be really only radium because barium was prohibited by the physicists that we didn’t dare to think it barium in those times. We always tried to explain what is wrong in our experiments, not to say we do have barium, but we always thought it can’t be there and therefore we have to say, “What is the nonsense we are doing?” So really, it is so, that we poor chemists—isn’t it the same with you?—we are so afraid of these physics people.”

This comes from a superb program about the discovery of fission produced by the American Institute of Physics: http://aip.org/history/mod/fission/fission1/03.html

Again—IMO, Schweitzer was probably thinking similar thoughts. She knew her conclusion would be vigorously challenged, that no one doing mainstream paleontology (as vs the molecular-style paleontology she was doing) would buy it, and that her reputation hung in the balance.


darwin.dissenters - #86053

July 24th 2014

I see Mark Armitage lost his job over finds in Hell’s Creek

http://www.pacificjustice.org/press-releases/university-silences-scientist-after-dinosaur-discovery


g kc - #86055

July 24th 2014

DD,

What an unfortunate coincidence. But I guess that’s how science, or evolutionary science, works.

Thanks for the research and post. 


bren - #86065

July 28th 2014

G kc,

 

In answer to 86056,

You don’t understand why natural selection is critical.  Ok, ask a dog breeder developing a new breed why artificial selection is critical in attaining the results he is looking for (take as an example the breeding of the Dachshund, of such an outlandish form, but specially “designed” to flush out burrow-dwelling animals and carefully note that none of the earlier ancestors of this dog had a form at all approaching that of the end results, or for that matter, I’d love to know what force transformed the primitive dog into the hairless Mexican, the Saint-Bernard and the Scottish terrier).  The second answer may give you a clue to the first.  For the rest, I shouldn’t have to point out what the variations being selected consist of nor in what way natural selection can be sustained and non-random in nature.  The necessary foundation for legitimately debunking a point is to properly represent it in the first place, and the only way to properly represent it is by taking the time to understand it.  The very fact that you think natural selection to be nothing but a pointless everyday description of how some individuals survive and some don’t, having nothing to do with evolution, gives the impression that you haven’t even started climbing that ladder.

I think I see why you considered my second sentence to be a weakening of my first, which is a bit of a benign point, but I nevertheless think I should reformulate for your benefit; I think you already know my opinion on this since I was clear to begin with as well as in previous discussions, and this remark was meant as a passing reference to my previous comment, but since you took it as a wonderful opportunity to polish your stand up routine;-), and since you are apparently deeply concerned that I may have changed my opinion, I will clarify that I didn’t, and I will clarify my meaning.  I take “uncontroversial” to mean that scientists no longer consider it a point that needs to be debated, and it is therefore solid science.  The “In general” stands in for “the vast majority of scientists”, as would “on the whole” or some other such term, meaning that only a few disagree with the consensus.  The reason it is not a scientific controversy is that it is not a controversy that is taking place in the scientific community or in any scientific venues.  I can’t think of any scientist who is under the impression that the scientific community is actively debating the reality of evolution in the journals etc.  Perhaps you know some who are under this impression, but I doubt it.  My mistake was in making sound as though I now thought that some scientists actually thought that there was an ongoing controversy amongst their colleagues on the subject.  No, they don’t, some few scientists are indeed dissenters, but they are not under the impression that scientists are squaring off in the scientific journals about it, they are well aware that it is not a live topic of debate amongst scientists.  The most paranoid of these few probably think that the issue is being suppressed instead of being debated, but even this belief becomes impossible with further familiarity, and the only remaining recourse is for them to assume that their colleagues have been brainwashed in university by an atheistic worldview.  But I think you already knew this to be my opinion and the dust settles on the original comments I made in this blog while you dabble in satire that takes us nowhere.

By the way, you apparently took my phrase “…natural selection is generally regarded as being uncontroversial in the scientific community” to mean “...NS is controversial in the science community”.  Sure it does. Cut and paste.  Don’t even know why I bothered offering my opinion when you do it so much better.  Yet another classic paraphrasing fiasco for your CV.  Feel free to disagree with me and to say why, but next time you feel that familiar itch to paraphrase me, please refrain.  You have a shaky record and it is a completely pointless irritant.

“What is critical is a proverbial primordial soup of chemicals somehow ultimately providing the form and function - the eyes, ears, wings, fins, brains, etc. -  from which nature deigns to select for survival.”This is nonsensical.  I can’t think what you are talking about.  Please learn about changes in the genetic code, point-mutations, transpositions, Indels etc, and take the time to realize that biologists don’t use the Timaeus as their founding text.  A statement like: “nature’s “selection” matters only if nature has something to select from” is further proof that your confident opposition is directed to something that you simply haven’t researched at a basic level.  If you want to, go ahead and affirm that the genetic code never ever varies in any way or that such variation has zero relevance to evolution, but please don’t pretend to not even know where variation is supposed to come from.  You are one of the more clear spoken creationists I have communicated with, but this is unfortunately not all that much of a compliment, and the truth is, you seem to have very little understanding of what is actually claimed by scientists in the subject you love tohate, though for some reason, I have very little trouble tracing the lineage of most of your ideas to a number of well known creationist web sites and books…

“Also, how are my words on “common descent” off topic? You are the one who brought it up (see again Statement 1 above).”No.  I didn’t.  The topic I was discussing was my agreement with you that many points in the sciences were conjectural and that there were varying degrees of evidence, and I then, in support of this topic, listed some of the kinds of things that sometimes have little evidence and are debated and some of the things that had lots of evidence and are no longer debated.  Common descent was a part of that second list in support of the topic at hand.  This does not suddenly make it the new topic any more than a name in a phone book suddenly becomes a new phone book.  I also mentioned the Timaeus earlier in this post, but please don’t bother launching into a discussion of Plato and claiming that I am the one that brought it up as a new topic.  If I bring up something new as a topic (I think I’ll leave this sort of evasive action to you), I’ll let you know that this is the intention, but otherwise, please don’t misinterpret the fact that I am using a word asa part of a list within the topic being discussed as an effort on my part to change the subject.  Anyway, the list made the claim that common descent, among other things, was considered to be solid science by most scientists, but you did not even address that point in your discussion of the new topic on which you felt fit to embark.  Do you agree? Do you not agree?  Do you have a reason for using any pretext to start on a new topic?

Common descent was not considered to be reasonable by scientists before Darwin in spite of the fact that they saw the same similarities in form and function that he did.  This changed completely once he had presented his case.  And if you would bother reading his works, you would notice that he didn’t just randomly list all of the similarities between species that the other scientists had already noticed, concluding with “Aha!  There you have it!”.  If you are not familiar even with the initial arguments used in support of at least a degree of common descent and the patterns that have been viewed as being convincing since the time of Darwin, I won’t bail you out for not doing your own homework and I find it entirely unconvincing that you can’t imagine where to look for more information.  Intellectual integrity would insist that you get to know how evolution is supposed to work and what arguments are supposed to support it before you fly at it with your hatchet.  There are a number of very good books that deal with the evidence for evolution, and I would strongly suggest going through one of these with an open mind.

Your “P.S.” is obscure and off topic (yes I did say the words “Hell Creek” and no, that doesn’t happen to mean I couldn’t wait to discuss anything loosely associated with these words), if you have an interesting point to make, please go ahead and make it.

 

I have been trying to address your opinions on the soft tissue discovery and have made a number of points relating to this.  Now that you have invented and exhausted every tangent you can think of, did you want to address my points?


g kc - #86067

July 29th 2014

Bren,

Your words above on natural selection brought no new news to the discussion. Animal breeding/artificial selection has been performed by mankind for virtually all of recorded history, with significant results for all to see. (Also, any four year-old can quickly tell you that “the hairless Mexican, the Saint-Bernard and the Scottish terrier” are all dogs.) I stand by my position as stated in #86056.

 

“The reason [natural selection] is not a scientific controversy is that it is not a controversy that is taking place in the scientific community or in any scientific venues.”

I pointed out that your earlier statement that NS is ‘generally uncontroversial’ (i.e. not universally uncontroversial) means you admit that some in the evolutionary community might disagree with your “critical” characterization of NS. I don’t think you would deny this, unless you want to reinterpret your words for me again. Or unless you want to stick to your characterization of my words as a “classic paraphrasing fiasco”. 

I was fairly confident I had read of controversy over NS in the science community, or at least disagreement over NS being “critical”. I repeat: disagreement in the evolution science community over NS being “critical”.

I googled tonight and found two examples:

1)

“Firstly, there is variation: due to mutations, different members of a population may have differences in traits. Secondly, there is selection: if the variation in a trait allows an organism to have more viable offspring, to be ‘fitter’, then that trait will eventually come to dominate in the population. Traditional evolutionary theory focuses primarily on the work of natural selection. We are challenging this emphasis by claiming that strong biases in the rates at which traits can arrive through variation may direct evolution towards outcomes that are not simply the ‘fittest’.”

http://phys.org/news/2014-02-evolutionary-important-success.html

 

2)

“Yet selection alone is not sufficient to drive evolution because natural selection reduces the very variation that it requires to operate. It was only recognised well after Darwin’s day [2], in part through the success of the Modern Synthesis, that the fuel for selection is provided by mutations that make offspring genetically different from their parents…

“When Hugo de Vries was advocating for the importance of mutations in evolution, he famously said “Natural selection may explain the survival of the fittest, but it cannot explain the arrival of the fittest” 

http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0086635

 

 

Me: “What is critical is a proverbial primordial soup of chemicals somehow ultimately providing the form and function - the eyes, ears, wings, fins, brains, etc. -  from which nature deigns to select for survival.”

You: “This is nonsensical.  I can’t think what you are talking about.  Please learn about changes in the genetic code, point-mutations, transpositions, Indels etc,”

Unless I overestimated you, I think you know exactly what I’m talking about. I’m talking about how is that chemicals can randomly coalesce to form genetic code and how is it that this earliest genetic code could gradually produce the things mentioned.

Let me put it this way, Bren. How is it that the very first life was able to mutate systems to 1) realize it needed nourishment, 2) locate appropriate nourishment, 3) acquire the nourishment, 4) ingest the nourishment, and 5) digest the nourishment, and do so very, very quickly so that it wouldn’t starve to death? That’s five (5) systems before it starves. Then, how did this very first life randomly mutate a system to reproduce itself, and do so very, very quickly before it dies?

And how did something like eye balls evolve? If you know of a hypothesis that doesn’t start with “sun-sensitive” skin, please let me know. Feel free to bring in “genetic code, point-mutations, transpositions, Indels etc”. Just show me a compelling (and hopefully verifiable) way of how this evolved gradually.

 

 

“If you want to, go ahead and affirm that the genetic code never ever varies in any way or that such variation has zero relevance to evolution, but please don’t pretend to not even know where variation is supposed to come from.”

I think this would be an A+ example of what’s known as a “straw man” argument. Neither I nor anyone I know denies genetic code can vary.

 

 

“… and common descent as description of natural history, the science is considered to be extremely solid by the vast majority of scientists…”

The first claims about “common descent” on this blog came from you, from the quote directly above. If you choose not to support your claim, and show how the support does not involve observed similarities of form, function or genetics, well, there’s not much I can do about it.

 

 

“I won’t bail you out for not doing your own homework and I find it entirely unconvincing that you can’t imagine where to look for more information.  Intellectual integrity would insist that you get to know how evolution is supposed to work and what arguments are supposed to support it before you fly at it with your hatchet.  There are a number of very good books that deal with the evidence for evolution, and I would strongly suggest going through one of these with an open mind.”

I’ve done a good deal of homework, over quite a few years. But for the sake of argument, let’s say I’ve read every single source that you have read or that you would recommend, and found them anywhere from uncompelling to ridiculous. For me to rehash every single one would take more time than I or anyone else has.

Instead, why don’t you provide a single source (e.g. one article) that’s internet- accessible that you find extremely compelling. Ideally, your #1. Then we could focus on that.

 

P.S.

Regarding Hell Creek, which again, you were the first to bring up…

“While at a dig at Hell Creek formation in Montana, the scientist, Mark Armitage, came upon the largest triceratops horn ever unearthed at the site. When examining the horn under a high-powered microscope back at CSUN, Armitage was fascinated to see the soft tissue. The discovery stunned members of the scientific community because it indicates that dinosaurs roamed the earth only thousands of years in the past rather than going extinct 60 million years ago.  

“According to court documents, shortly after the original soft tissue discovery, a university official challenged the motives of Armitage, by shouting at him, “We are not going to tolerate your religion in this department!”   

“Armitage, a published scientist of over 30 years, was subsequently let go after CSUN abruptly claimed his appointment at the university of 38 months had been temporary, and claimed a lack of funding for his position.” http://www.pacificjustice.org/press-releases/university-silences-scientist-after-dinosaur-discovery


bren - #86076

July 30th 2014

In response to 86067,

G kc,

You: Your words above on natural selection brought no new news to the discussion. Animal breeding/artificial selection has been performed by mankind for virtually all of recorded history, with significant results for all to see. (Also, any four year-old can quickly tell you that “the hairless Mexican, the Saint-Bernard and the Scottish terrier” are all dogs.) I stand by my position as stated in #86056.

Me: So you agree that selection can introduce an amazing amount of morphological change over a relatively short period of a few thousand years, as demonstrated by the variety of dogs we can see around us, but you don’t agree that this can provide a clue as to why scientists view it as having a critical influence over millions of years.  By the way, If you had never seen a dog before and then you happened to observed a Saint Bernard and a hairless mexican in the wild (not sure it would survive in the wild, but this is hypothetical), would you respond by saying, “they’re both pretty much the same thing, they’re obviously the same species and some completely non-critical process can clearly account for these differences”?  Of course not.  It is slightly more likely that you’d wonder if one was a strange cousin of the rat species and the other was somehow related to the bear (though likely you’d just shrug and leave classification to others).

You: “The reason [natural selection] is not a scientific controversy is that it is not a controversy that is taking place in the scientific community or in any scientific venues.”  I pointed out that your earlier statement that NS is ‘generally uncontroversial’ (i.e. not universally uncontroversial) means you admit that some in the evolutionary community might disagree with your “critical” characterization of NS.

Me: Hm, come to think of it, I would pretty much stand by what I said; natural selection is regarded as being a critical mechanism by the vast majority of scientists.  Some do indeed seem to doubt that natural selection is all that much more important than some other mechanisms, even if it remains critical in producing the end results, but this seems to be a minority, and as for those who don’t think it is critical at all, there seem to be very few indeed (though in Darwin’s time, many thought NS was not all that important, including some of Darwin’s closest friends and supporters).  To clarify further, this kind of discussion about just what other factors work alongside NS actually does take place in scientific venues, since although nearly everyone thinks NS is important, no one seems to be sure as to just how much of a contribution is made by other mechanisms (drift etc), so it is genuinely open to debate.  Now, for the above sentence that you quoted (thankfully you didn’t paraphrase it), I do love that you had to add the [natural selection] in brackets.  This was very careful of you and I appreciate that.  The observant reader would then start to wonder what was there in the place of [natural selection] and would naturally find the word “it”.  The “it” would be admittedly unclear if it weren’t for the very next sentence where the “it” is elaborated as standing for “evolution” (“I can’t think of any scientist who is under the impression that the scientific community is actively debating the reality of evolution in the journals etc.”).  So yes, I would stand by that too.  Evolution is not something that is thought to be actively debated in scientific venues and any journal survey would justify this impression (you won’t find a single suggestion in any of the respected modern scientific journals that evolution did not happen).  Mixing up referents seems to be spinning out this sort of silly controversy, so just check that my referents are as stated above and I think a uniform picture of what I think starts to resolve!  Not that this particularly matters, but it seems important to you and I’m glad you’ve given me the chance to make a correction in my earlier careless self-reference.  Outside of the carelessness of this quick reference, which seems to have been very important for you, I can’t seem to locate the mess of contradictions you keep trying to discover.  Please let me know when you are feeling big enough to move on.

You: I was fairly confident I had read of controversy over NS in the science community, or at least disagreement over NS being “critical”. I repeat: disagreement in the evolution science community over NS being “critical”.  I googled tonight and found two examples:

Me: As I said above, I think I’ve corrected your misapprehension here.  Evolution as fact is not doubted or debated in the sci community.  The degree of importance of other factors beside NS is debated.  But NS is considered to be critical by the vast majority and most of the debate concerns to what degrees other factors influence the outcome.  Your two papers are interesting.  The first is particularly interesting because they seem to be saying that NS is traditionally viewed as being the central point of emphasis but that they think this emphasis should shift towards looking at the impact of biases induced by differential variation and how this may results in sub-optimal outcomes.  This is as I mentioned above, and you would need to ask, but I doubt they would take that as a basis for denying that selection is critical.  More likely they would say that these biases are not being sufficiently considered as being partially determinative of the outcome.  Anyway, as I said, the article is another interesting chapter in the debates about NS and what accompanies its activity in producing the end results.  The second paper seems to be based on a misunderstanding.  No one ever (ever) thought that NS was sufficient.  This would of course be ridiculous, since as you said, it needs something to select.  Variation and natural selection are the two sides of the coin and neither in the absence of the other can result in evolution.  This is the basics, so I shouldn’t need to point out that I agree with what is being said and I’m not sure how I should be led to infer that NS is unimportant to the authors.


bren - #86077

July 30th 2014

Continued…

You: Unless I overestimated you, I think you know exactly what I’m talking about. I’m talking about how is that chemicals can randomly coalesce to form genetic code and how is it that this earliest genetic code could gradually produce the things mentioned.

Me: Ahh, I see, so you are again introducing a new topic!  This is becoming a habit.  I was under the impression that we were discussing a topic that had been previously introduced in place of the topic being originally discussed, but now it seems that we have moved on to abiogenesis.  It seems that I’m simply having trouble keeping up with the rapid fire topic changes (my mental inertia still wants to think we are discussing soft tissues).  So let’s see, I am to explain to you how the first cells formed.  Is that all?  G kc, please allow me to bow out of a rather heavy demand, for although I am encouraged by your overestimation of my abilities, I’m forced to admit that there are scientists who are far better qualified to investigate this question.  Since it is a question that couldn’t possibly have any direct 3.5 billion year old microscopic (or nanoscopic) evidence available, I’m inclined to give them a little extra time on this one.  If their time is up so far as you are concerned, I doubt that this fact will particularly sting their pride.  Actually, your very first line has you off on a wild goose chase.  Assuming you took as your premise an RNA world at the early stages of replication in some microenvironment, it appears that your first question would be “how would they realize they need nourishment?”  I’m sort of glad you didn’t take up science with probing questions like these.  The eyeball question is more in the line of evolution, and unfortunately, I tend to start with a light sensitive patch like Darwin and then, like Darwin, I tend to observe that most of the significant in-between gradations are currently present in nature and seem to provide selective advantages.  We know that the phenotypic variations are a function of the genetic changes, but obviously, we have no way of knowing the precise genetic pathway, though we can make some guesses using the known stages found in nature while taking advantage of comparative genomics.  It is obviously true that using the battery of available DNA changes, it is possible to turn an eyeless genome into one that produces eyes, but since we would need to check viability and selective advantages all along the way and since the reality may still have involved a different route to the end result, we simply can’t be sure and such a test is impracticable over the next few million years anyway.  I think you knew at least some of this and I find that these are weird questions.  I think the idea must be to get me to conclude that it can’t be possible (I can’t read minds, but it is the only explanation I can come up with for such questions), but I’m not sure how you get from an interesting open scientific question to “it can’t be done”.  I don’t see the logical step and I don’t embrace your hybrid state of impervious incredulity about some things and staunch credulity about others.  If you know the way to transform interesting questions of this variety into “it can’t be done”, do tell.You: The first claims about “common descent” on this blog came from you, from the quote directly above. If you choose not to support your claim, and show how the support does not involve observed similarities of form, function or genetics, well, there’s not much I can do about it.

Me: You know what I claimed and you know that it was merely an example in a list, not a new topic (but hey, you seem very excited to discuss it, and I’m having trouble holding back the flood, even though I’d frankly like to discuss the original topic without all of these new topics conveniently getting in the way).  It is considered to be solid science in the scientific community (I am not currently looking at the post to which I am referring, so if this last sentence makes you uncomfortable, please correct it in great detail).  That’s it.  That’s the claim.  I wasn’t even offering my own opinion on common descent.  That claim cannot possibly be supported by my showing you what patterns of evidence are seen as making it convincing (as you suggest), it can only be supported by a survey of the scientific literature.  To bring forward evidence about common descent would be yet again, a new topic and it would not establish “my claim” at all.  Since you are insistent in trying to get this new topic certified, I’ll oblige a little bit, but I think I’ve made it clear that (a) I consider this to be off topic and I’m beginning to wonder what reason you have for consistently steering away from my original points and (b) I am not convinced that you know very much about evolutionary theory and I do not want to cast myself in a didactic role when it is your own responsibility to do the research.  (b) may be completely wrong, but I just find it amazing that you think evolutionist’s only real reason for thinking that all life is related is because there are “similarities of form, function or genetics”, as though Darwin was somehow the first to notice these similarities.

Since you want to know more, I will give you an example of some of the interesting evidence that finds no other explanation using any alternative model.  As I said, I don’t think it is the similarities themselves that count (as mentioned, these have always been known).  The fact that we all have eyes, for example, is susceptible to multiple hypotheses (including the old “common creator” hypothesis).  It is rather the patterns that should be looked at.  One interesting pattern is that of vestigial DNA and organs.  It is not that these are non-functional; some are minimally functional, some have no discernible function etc.  It is that they are in the exact positions or conformations as for species that are considered to be closely related on other grounds, but they do not serve the same function.  This is difficult to explain without common descent.  Here is such an example: Perhaps we are not related to mice or dogs, but on the other hand it then becomes very difficult to see why we should have more than 99 odorant receptor genes, of which ~70% are largely truncated non-coding pseudogenes, while our putative ancestors, sporting a much better sense of smell than us, have many of the same genes in a functional state.  Confirming the same story, the dolphin goes even further down this path, since it no longer needs to detect volatile odorants at all, and it happens to have the same complexes, but all (class II) such genes are pseudogenes (class I receptors seem to be specialized for detecting water-soluble odorants, since dolphins do make use of these and class II receptors for recognizing volatile odorants).  In some cases, abrogated activity in DNA sequences leads to these sequences being co-opted for other purposes, mostly for gene regulation of one kind or another, and this is an example of the redundancy of the genome leading to new innovation, but the long sequences of bps that happen to match, aside from deleterious errors, the very same functional sequences in related species, needs a strong global explanation, and this is easily provided by common descent.  In other words, it is the pattern of similarities and differences that makes the case here; the fact that we have all of these same genes as related species (similarities), but they are affected by frameshift mutations etc (differences) that make them non-functional.  Try Freitag et al. 1998, if you can get past the paywall; think you could find in a similar vein if you look around.  I’ve never heard a competing explanation for this particular pattern under the creationist banner.


bren - #86078

July 30th 2014

Continued…

You: I’ve done a good deal of homework, over quite a few years. But for the sake of argument, let’s say I’ve read every single source that you have read or that you would recommend, and found them anywhere from uncompelling to ridiculous. For me to rehash every single one would take more time than I or anyone else has.Instead, why don’t you provide a single source (e.g. one article) that’s internet- accessible that you find extremely compelling. Ideally, your #1. Then we could focus on that.

Me: I’ve been given little reason to assume that you know the scientific literature as well as you claim, but I’m willing to take your word for it (“for the sake of argument”?!  Not exactly a convincing way of putting it).  Given the reality of this display of due diligence, can you give me examples of some of the books on evolution that you would have read?  I’m not asking for the scientific journal articles, as these are obviously highly specialized.  I’m not asking if you are a university educated biologist, which would obviously go far in convincing anyone that you have gone to the trouble of ensuring that you are on the right side of truth.  All I would like to know is whether or not you have done some minimal, from the easy-chair research to fulfill the requirements of basic intellectual integrity at a lay level.  Note that this is a new subject that you do not need to follow up on, but if what you say is true, I think you’ll be very interested in following up on it.  Regarding your request for a reference, I just provided you with one above, but honestly, since there was already a subject at hand (soft tissues) and you have yet to address my points, I would prefer we get back to Mary’s work.Regarding your P.S., the source is known to be highly right wing and is not known for hiding its bias; it blatantly and confidently opposes all published scientific conclusions in the excerpt below, without even the hint of a suggestion that Armitage may have been way over on the wrong side of right.  This does not encourage my trust and it is sad that it somehow encourages yours.  If you have a reliable, objective media source on the subject, that would be better.  That said, if it is true that Armitage took something that has been reliably dated and then threw out that information in favor of a few thousand years because he found something that cannot be relied upon to infer anything at all about the date of the samples, he cannot be called anything but a bad scientist in that he apparently lets his religious convictions dictate his scientific conclusions.  Could it be that he was laid off because this situation established that he is incompetent to fulfill his duties with a minimum of objectivity?  I don’t know, but this would be decent grounds in my mind, given that he simply cannot reliably perform his job without this objectivity.

 

G kc, I like the way you debate overall and I find you to be quite lucid, but I am still interested in hearing your direct response to my original points here instead of this ongoing branching out, so please let me know if you have any intention of circling back.


g kc - #86079

July 30th 2014

Bren,

A six part response.

1)

“By the way, If you had never seen a dog before and then you happened to observed a Saint Bernard and a hairless mexican in the wild (not sure it would survive in the wild, but this is hypothetical), would you respond by saying, “they’re both pretty much the same thing, they’re obviously the same species and some completely non-critical process can clearly account for these differences”?  Of course not.  It is slightly more likely that you’d wonder if one was a strange cousin of the rat species and the other was somehow related to the bear (though likely you’d just shrug and leave classification to others).”

Fortunately, unlike with evolution, in the real world we don’t have to deal with hypotheticals regarding the “dog-ness” of “the hairless Mexican, the Saint-Bernard and the Scottish terrier.”  The four year-old child, without knowing anything about genetics, knows they’re all dogs and not rats or bears. He might struggle (as would adults) to clearly and fully explain why he knows this.  Perhaps it’s that rats (and cats) and bears don’t bark or wag their tails. Perhaps adults could get into more of how similar all dog DNA is, and how it’s distinctly different from rat, cat and bear DNA.

 

2)

You:

“… I do love that you had to add the [natural selection] in brackets…  The observant reader would then start to wonder what was there in the place of [natural selection] and would naturally find the word “it”.  The “it” would be admittedly unclear if it weren’t for the very next sentence where the “it” is elaborated as standing for “evolution” (“I can’t think of any scientist who is under the impression that the scientific community is actively debating the reality of evolution in the journals etc.”)… Evolution is not something that is thought to be actively debated in scientific venues and any journal survey would justify this impression (you won’t find a single suggestion in any of the respected modern scientific journals that evolution did not happen).  Mixing up referents seems to be spinning out this sort of silly controversy, so just check that my referents are as stated above and I think a uniform picture of what I think starts to resolve!  Not that this particularly matters, but it seems important to you and I’m glad you’ve given me the chance to make a correction in my earlier careless self-reference.”

 

I really can’t tell if you’re apologizing for “mixing up” and “careless self-reference”. If you are, that’s great, for an apology is warranted. Because anyone reading the words (mine and yours) leading up to my brackets (i.e. [natural selection]) would know that the immediate discussion was not about evolution, per se, but rather was about natural selection being critical and uncontroversial. For you to imply that the “it” (which I replaced with [natural selection] for quote clarity) actually referred to evolution would a) violate common grammar, b) insult the common sense of the reader, c) be interpreted as your attempt to either change the subject or create a “straw man” argument. I say “straw man” because everyone (including me) agrees that evolutionists consider evolution “critical” and “uncontroversial”.

 

3)

“Ahh, I see, so you are again introducing a new topic!  This is becoming a habit.  I was under the impression that we were discussing a topic that had been previously introduced in place of the topic being originally discussed, but now it seems that we have moved on to abiogenesis.  It seems that I’m simply having trouble keeping up with the rapid fire topic changes (my mental inertia still wants to think we are discussing soft tissues).  So let’s see, I am to explain to you how the first cells formed.”

Another diversionary tactic, a straw man argument. My words, and the context of my words, were not about abiogenesis but rather about NS being irrelevant without something to select from, and with evolutionists’ utter inability to compellingly explain the appearance of the “somethings”. Lest another reader besides you doubt me, I’ll replay my words for other readers:

“Second, and more importantly, nature’s “selection” matters only if nature has something to select from. But where did the “from” (i.e. organs and organisms) come from? I’d say what is critical is not “natural selection”. What is critical is a proverbial primordial soup of chemicals somehow ultimately providing the form and function - the eyes, ears, wings, fins, brains, etc. - from which nature deigns to select for survival. Regarding the candidates for selection, evolutionary scientists, armed with nothing but speculations, just say ‘they evolved’. They resort not to a ‘god of the gaps’ but rather to ‘evolution of the gaps’. And what a gaping gap it is.”

 

3)

Regarding eyeball evolution, you admit that evolutionists can’t provide a step-by-step explanation of how it happened. You appear to admit you don’t even know where to start: “I tend to start with a light sensitive patch like Darwin…”. That is, you do not know to start, or you’re not certain to start, with a light sensitive patch of skin. Or did I read this wrongly also?

On this eye-opening topic, you say I pose “weird questions.” And you write “… but I’m not sure how you get from an interesting open scientific question to “it can’t be done”. 

I wonder how one goes from all this uncertainty about eye evolution to “It was done” (i.e. Eyeballs evolved.)

How does one such as yourself do this and maintain scientific integrity? Do tell.

 

4)

Regarding “common descent”, thanks for providing some support which you feel does not rely primarily on similarities of form, function or genetics. However, I have some questions regarding your examples.

a)     Would your belief of man’s descent from mice or dogs be different if humans had the same (i.e. 100% of) functional odorant receptor genes as mice or dogs?

b)     Would a human born blind be evidence for his descent from the seeing mice or dogs?

c)     You seem to be playing “heads Bren wins, tails g kc loses”. Your words: “I don’t think it is the similarities themselves that count… but the long sequences of bps that happen to match, aside from deleterious errors, the very same functional sequences in related species, needs a strong global explanation, and this is easily provided by common descent.  In other words, it is the pattern of similarities and differences that makes the case here; the fact that we have all of these same genes as related species (similarities), but they are affected by frameshift mutations etc (differences) that make them non-functional.” So, your argument is indeed based entirely on similarities; the observed differences are considered important only because the differences are viewed as departures/defects from what is believed to be once-similar/identical. Stated differently, you wouldn’t say humans and dolphins have a common ancestor because one lives on land and the other in water. You’d say they have a common ancestor because they both detect odors but detect odors differently.

d)     You focus on pseudogenes. Note the bias and circular reasoning, common throughout evolution literature, in this definition of “pseudogenes” from the National Institute of Health:

“A pseudogene is a DNA sequence that resembles a gene but has been mutated into an inactive form over the course of evolution. A pseudogene shares an evolutionary history with a functional gene and can provide insight into their shared ancestry.”

Thus, a pseudogene is evidence of evolution because it evolved and evolution is true.

 

5)

“…can you give me examples of some of the books on evolution that you would have read?”

The entire point of my saying that ‘for the sake of argument, I’ve read everything you can think of on evolution’ is so that I would NOT be asked to provide examples, because they would be limitless and ranging from uncompelling to ridiculous. The point was for you to provide an internet-accessible article which you would consider to be very solid, and ideally your #1. Thanks for providing such an article - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9839455?dopt=Abstract

However, if this is anywhere close to the best you can provide, I am, to put it mildly, less than impressed. Please read again the points I made in 4) above.

 

6)

“I am still interested in hearing your direct response to my original points here”

Honestly, I’ve lost track what they were. Would you please reiterate your top one or two?


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