Categories: "Science"

Questions for "evolutionists" - chickens, eggs, protein and Everest

Continuing the long series on questions for "evolutionists" is a few questions from a reader I got. I assume they think their questions are compelling. They are not.

First up:

What came first, the chicken or the egg? If the egg; what came first, the embryo or the shell?

The egg came first. Let me explain why. At some point in the chicken’s evolutionary past, it was a different species. Scientists categorise modern domesticated chickens as Gallus gallus domesticus. Their domestication is estimated to have started around 10,000 years ago in East Asia. If we for the sake of argument define chickens or red junglefowl (Gallus gallus) as a different species at a point around 10,000 years ago when they started to become domesticated, there would have been a a time where a chicken's parents were just those wild red junglefowls. Of course from individual generations the differences are only slight. But differences do occur. Broadening the concept further, all birds are descended from dinosaurs, so at some point dinosaurs did lay eggs with birds in them. Obviously it's not as such fine a line and species change gradually, but if you have to draw a razor sharp line somewhere, it will fall between two generations.

A quick point on what came first out of shell or an embryo. An embryo, which is critical to a species reproducing, would have come first. You can reproduce without a shell, as many species do and have done in the past. If you evolve a shell and it helps you survive, bonus. But it's certainly not the first step.

What came first DNA or the proteins that make up DNA? Since DNA itself contains the code or instructions on how to make more DNA?

First up DNA is not made from proteins, DNA codes for proteins, you can think of proteins as carrying out all the jobs that need to be done in a cell, and DNA as what tells the proteins what to do. Proteins would have *probably* been around before DNA; however this is obviously cutting edge science, and without a time machine it will be difficult to determine. It's probably fair to say RNA and proteins co-evolved. Although the first life on Earth would probably have been a simple self-replicated module, similar to RNA.

Try these simple steps:

1. Google: "how old is mount everest"
2. Google: "how many inches does mount everest grow in one year".
3. 70 million x 2.4 = 168 million
4. Divide by a mile: 168 million / 5,280 = 31,818
5. Mount everest should be 31,818 miles high?

Very nice. But the Earth cannot be understood by such simple arithmetic. You also need to consider the different rates Mt Everest and the Himalayas would have been growing, or shrinking over the course of the last 70 million years. You also need to take into account the amount of erosion that would have been happening over the course of those 70 million or so years, and take into account its variability also. Lastly, you also need to take into account that mountains cannot get much bigger than Mt Everest because gravity will pull them down, essentially they'll shrink under their own weight. An asteroid can have a huge lump or mountain out of one side, but an object as massive as the Earth has a lot of gravity and it will tend to smooth itself out.

Comments on homeopathy - are we doomed to the dark ages again?

The 1023 event took place yesterday. In short a few hundred skeptics went outside about half a dozen Boots stores in the UK and "overdosed" on homeopathic pills by each downing a whole bottle. They did this in order to demonstrate there's nothing in homeopathic pills other than water and sometimes sugar and to emphasise that they have no effect.

It managed to get some coverage on the BBC which is nice, although obviously the BBC didn't do a very good job reporting it. More interesting however is some of the comments that people left, the stupidity of some people on the BBC's have you say section always seems to surprise me, I'm going to politely put down some of the more memorable. As usual we have the anti-science brigade out on parade. Ungrateful that this evil science thing has more doubled their average life spans.

A Tiger Moth from Stoke writes:

Id like these scientists to show me

a radio wave
take a tape measure and physicaly measure the milky way
Id like them to show me an atom in my hand so I can see it
Id also like them to show me the proof of the big bang actually show me proof I can see feel and touch
nahhhhhhhhhhhhh

1) Radio waves are invisible, our eyes do not see radio waves if they did they'd have to be a fair bit bigger. They can see visible light, hence the name, but even then we cannot obviously see the actual wave, although light interacting with our eyes will behave more like a particle. We can however build detectors that can "see" radio waves the same way as our eyes can see visible light. You might of heard of them, they're called radios.

2) Obviously building a tape measure across the whole galaxy would be expensive, and it would be difficult to source the raw materials required. However we can see how big the Milky Way is, all it takes are standard candles such as RR Lyrae stars, careful observation and a bit of mathematics.

3) Individual atoms are too small to be seen by the eye. There are numerous ways to infer the existence of atoms, such as watching the jumping movement of small particles in water, due to the motion of the molecules making up the water, or by bouncing electrons off atoms etc.

4) Obviously you cannot feel or touch the Big Bang, it happened in the past. We can show you a photograph of the afterglow of the Big Bang, all you need is a microwave telescope in orbit. However you can feel the products of the Big Bang, most of the hydrogen in your body was created just a few seconds after the Big Bang.

Obviously Tiger Moth likes to make use of logical fallacies, without actually addressing the topic at hand. The fact he throws out such pre-childish statements I think demonstrates his mental capabilities.

thing is its just observation and assumption
am baffled as too why scientists tho should spend time having a tantrum over what they dont belive in sounds like havin a demo against the tooth fairy

Observation and assumption, which is not what the above are examples of. Is better than plain asseration which the proponents of homeopathy partake. And this isn't scientists having a tantrum over what they don't believe in, scientists are too busy doing actual science, these are people who are fed up with irrationality getting a free ride. Belief is irrelevant, what does the data show? The data shows homeopathy doesn't work. Belief is not required.

To all those who say homeopathy is fake and believe only in "normal" medicine, just remember it was not long ago that people believed earth to be flat.

Yes Scrambled Eggs from London, and not long ago people believed in fairies. Guess what that still doesn't make homeopathy work.

To those who swear by the scientists, you do remember that scientists once believed the world was flat, and that the planets and sun went around earth? And you still believe everything they say?

Actually Rachael it was science that proved the Earth was spherical (by Eratosthenes in about 300 BC) and that it orbited the Sun, (proposed by many people, namely Capernicus and later proved by Galileo). Prior to that there was no scientific proof that the Earth was flat, or that the Sun went around the Earth. That was simply the default position because frankly, that's what it looks like. Trying to pin how people thought the universe was constructed before science, upon science is pretty weak IMO.

Yes, because it has worked for me, my family, and my clients many times over. That is the only way you really know if something is valid or not, through personal experience. I think for myself.

Yes of course Sonya McLeod from Vancouver, because personal experience is a reliable means of determining what is fact and what is not. Dowsers believe they can really dowse, what happens in controlled double-blinded experiments? Oh they can't. Personal experience is the one thing that cannot be reliably used to determine what is true or not. Face it, we're terrible at remembering if things work or not, we're prone to allow bias to creep into things. That why we have the scientific method to filter out as many components as possible other than the ones being tested.

Heck if we rely on personal experiences, most of my personal experiences tell me the Earth is this giant unmovable object that couldn't possibly be moving around the Sun, it looks so small in the sky. But you know what, those personal experiences are wrong, and we can prove that with a little bit of science.

Homeopathy did more for me than 'proper' medicine so I know which side of the fence I sit.
Besides, like to see the protestors take overdoses of 'normal' medicine to the same extent as well, as you would do in a proper scientific experiment . Only fair hmm?
Liver damage anyone?

Alright Skipsurfer from Maidstone. Obviously the point of this has gone completely over your head. Normal medicine, ie medicine that has been proven to have an effect, will obviously give you liver damage or worse if you overdose on it. That's because it actually has an effect upon the body. Unlike homeopathy which has no physiological effect beyond that of drinking water or taking a tablet of sugar. It does have other effects such as departing the gullible of their money, and potentially sending them to an early grave if they seek homeopathic "treatment" instead of proper treatment.

The protest proves nothing. An "overdose" of any medicine (even homoeopathy remedies) would have damaging side effects. Clearly those protesting not only do not know a thing about how the body works, but are delusional as to how to win support.

Steven. Look mate, just admit you don't know what you're talking about. You cannot overdose on homeopathy because there's nothing in it, it doesn't do anything. That's the point of the protest.

You don't get a product withdrawn by proving it is dangerous by using it incorrectly. They would have been better served lobbying for clinical trials to prove that there are no positive benefits to these medicines if that is what they truly believe

They're not trying to get it withdrawn because it is not safe. We know it is safe, that's because there's nothing in it! There are already dozens of clinical trials showing no effectiveness, it's not hard to predict considering there's nothing in homeopathic pills. They're trying to pressure Boots to stop stocking them, or at least inform their customers that these products don't do anything and raise awareness about homeopathy in general.

Once again the internet proves people are willing to blabber on about topics they think they know about, without actually knowing anything about them.

Richard Dawkins not sure on his faith?

Some guy going under the name Chas_chas_123 thinks Richard Dawkins isn't sure on his "faith".

Seemingly unaware that atheism is not based on faith. Everyone is born an atheist, and everyone is an atheist in respect to most of the gods that we've ever dreamt up. Faith is choosing to believe in something, like a supreme intergalactic dictator, without evidence. Atheism is simply the default position towards theistic superstition.

Arch-atheist Richard Dawkins recently supported a campaign saying "There's probably no God. So stop worrying and enjoy your life"

Doesn't seem that he's very sure of his faith?
Is it rational to bet your life on a 'probably'?

"There's probably no God" refers to an advertising campaign run on buses in the UK, which Richard Dawkins supported, but the original idea was that of Ariane Sherine.

As an atheist myself, I cannot say for certain that there is no [insert your favourite god here]. Just like I cannot say there are definitely no Leprechauns, Langoliers or that we definitely do not live in a computer simulation. However based upon what we know about the universe the god hypothesis is unlikely. The specific god of certain Bronze Age beliefs from one tiny planet from one tiny period in time is even more unlikely.

No rational person would say that there is 100% definitely not anything, because a rationalist is always open to the possibility that something could be proven to exist given sufficient evidence.

Here's what Richard Dawkins had to say about the word probably in the slogan:

I would like to add in addition to that, using the word probably helps atheists/rationalists/sceptics etc. differentiate themselves from absolutists like those of a religious background. You'll never see Christians use the slogan "There probably is a God, and there probably is a Hell for you to burn in eternity for, so you should probably go ahead and be a Christian".

Questions for "evolutionists" - something about the speed of light

Continuing in the questions for "evolutionists" series.

How do evolutionists resolve the problem of galaxies and stars being billion of lights years away from Earth?
When the universe is only six thousand years old?

Simple, the universe is not 6000 years old. The universe is 13.73 (+/- .12) billion years old.

Christians believe that God accelerated the speed of light in the past, making it at least a million times faster for a few thousand years, so that we would be able to enjoy the starlight at night. =)

Most christians don't believe that, most won't even know what you're even talking about. Your creationist videos/books have come up with this excuse for how objects can be billion of light years away in a 6000 year old universe and be visible.

What about for you evolutionists? What is the naturalistic explanation for how these stars are so far away in a six thousand year old universe?

Well its really not a question for "evolutionists", ignoring your poor attempt to associate biology and science with an ideology, biologists study life on Earth, not the universe. Cosmologists and astronomers study the universe. As for the answer it's simple, your basic premise is wrong. The age of the universe is greater than 6000 years.

Acid rain, the ozone layer, the ultimate proof global warming is wrong

...According to Dave from Portsmouth. From BBC News' Have your say. Well known not to bring out the brightest of people. Dave writes:

We had acid rain in the 80's. That was quickly followed by the o-zone layer. Why are these two things never mentioned today?

Climate change is a mere excuse to tax us to death.

Dave, referring to past environmental "scares" attempts to paint global warming with the same brush, well at least his mental version of this brush, thinking they were merely fads which just went out of fashion. Seemingly unaware that acid rain is an on-going problem although one we have tackled relatively effectively through the use of scrubbers to filter out sulfur, nitrogen oxides, etc and the odd international treaty here and there.

The ozone layer is however the classic example of what we can do internationally to solve something, and should be used as an example of what to do to tackle global warming. We spot that the ozone layer is eroding due to the release of CFCs into the atmosphere, in 1987 we ban the use of CFCs and today, we have an ozone layer that is gradually recovering.

Above all else it shows how dumb some of these global warming deniers are, seemingly unaware about acid rain, and worse yet the ozone layer. But I suppose that's what you get when you have people who think it's hotter at the equator because it's closer to the Sun trying to understand climate science.

Why didn't dinosaurs evolve again after the Big Bang?

While going through my logs last month I came across a rather interesting search query that somebody used to find my blog.

why didn't dinosaurs evolve again after the big bang

After a little chuckle I carried on, however I did jot it down for future use.

I suppose fundamentally it represents the terrible truth that ignorance dominates in our society. Nothing demonstrates this more than Sherri Shephard:

We knew the shape and size of the Earth 2200 years ago, it is disappointing to see not everyone is aware of it today.

I suppose I could just ridicule this person, but the fact they ask a question at least show they're interested in learning. Unlike Shephard, who during her whole life apparently never wondered what the shape of the world was, or was ever shown a map or globe of the Earth.

The fundamental answer for why dinosaurs didn't evolve *again* after the Big Bang was because the Big Bang predates the dinosaurs by about 13.6 billion years. There was no Big Bang after when the dinosaurs were about.

The question I suspect he or she was meaning was why didn't dinosaurs evolve again after going extinct?

There are a few reasons why this hasn't happened yet and why it probably won't happen again in the future.

Firstly the conditions present today are not like those of the Triassic, Jurassic or Cretaceous periods, the Earth is much cooler now, and because of this reptiles are small, the only large land animals are mammals because they are warm blooded. Because of this, it would be difficult for reptiles to compete with mammals as we're "dug-in" and would be difficult to be ousted. Like how mammals were small while reptiles dominated the Earth. You need an extinction event to shake things up. The impact that ended the Cretaceous period lowered global temperatures, this hurt reptiles badly but gave mammals are head start in the new environment. Today global warming could give reptiles a boost at the expense of many mammal species.

But even assuming the Earth of the future closely resembled that of a hundred million years ago, the probability of species resembling dinosaur species is extremely slim, we're talking trillions to one in probability this is because of how complicated the genetic code is. The change of the same mutations and then the same selections happening to create a species of dinosaur is incredibly remote. We may well end up with large reptiles again on the Earth. But realistically they will never be the same as species of dinosaur that have gone extinct. That genetic code is lost, and the chance of it arising again is too unlikely for it to happen.

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