Science Fiction: December 2006 Archives

December 19, 2006

Playing at science

New Scientist this week has a short article looking at creationists' latest tactics to convince lay people that their religion is really science. It mostly involves doing some work which is published in a peer-reviewed journal, and then (afterwards) claiming this is evidence in favour of a creator, even though all the results have shown nothing of the sort.

Fersht says he did not at first know about the Discovery Institute's support for ID. People do work in labs on external funding. Basically he [Axe] had a fellowship from what I thought was a bona fide research institute, he says. When another researcher in his lab pointed to the Discovery Institute's agenda and suggested that Axe be asked to leave, Fersht refused. I have always been fairly easy-going about people working in the lab. I said I was not going to throw him out. What he was doing was asking legitimate questions about how a protein folded.

In 2000 Axe published a paper about protein mutations (Journal of Molecular Biology, vol 301, p 585). The paper itself makes no mention of ID, but William Dembski, a philosopher and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, cites it as peer-reviewed evidence for ID

By 2002 it was becoming clear that Axe and Fersht were in dispute with each other over the implications of work going on in Fersht's lab. At the time Fersht was preparing to publish a retraction of a paper in which he and three colleagues had claimed to have caused one enzyme to evolve the functionality of another (Nature, vol 403, p 617). Axe interpreted the fact that problems had surfaced with the result as evidence that there were problems with the theory of evolution. I described to Alan preliminary results of mine that seemed to challenge the ability of spontaneous mutations to produce proteins with fundamentally new structures, and I suggested that the struggling projects under his direction might actually be pointing to the same conclusion, Axe told me in an email. Fersht disagreed with the suggestion. The problem result didn't show anything of the sort, he says. It showed there were inadequacies in our knowledge.

An editorial in the same issue compared the creationists' use of science with that of another industry:

In using science to this end, the movement would be following a tactic previously employed by the tobacco and oil industries.

Intelligent design: The God LabNew Scientist, 15th December 2006; Editorial: It's still about religionNew Scientist, 16th December 2006.

December 1, 2006

Little blue men

Scotland: Pictish symbol stones have been the subject of much debate over the years, with many hypotheses put forward to explain their unique iconography. Stan Hall has come up with possibly the most surprising one, suggesting that the Newton Stone in Aberdeenshire depicts a planetary catastrophe, and that something was around to witness it.

I recognised that on the Newton Stone it shows two planets breaking away from each other…The double disc and z-rod pictographs…record for posterity the actual birth of Jupiter from Saturn.

Hall believes that this break-up of Saturn — which must have been an extraordinary cosmic moment — has been recorded in the myths of all ancient people.

The Greeks talk of the night of the falling stars — all major civilisations have records of major interplanetary catastrophes. They're found in old nursery rhymes, which have found to be Sumerian, like 'Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle' which shows the planets rushing together.

But whilst Hall believes that our mytho-history records these turbulent disruptions, he is unsure whether humans would have been around to witness the events depicted. Which leads to Hall to question who first set down the information? Just who might have been around to see the birth of Jupiter?

If you are even slightly familiar with the contents of Chariots of the Gods, you can guess who.

Out of this world solution to a Scottish standing stoneThe Scotsman, 28th November 2006 (via Warren Ellis).

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Science Fiction category from December 2006.

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