Science

Organs, Tissues, & Planned Parenthood

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Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 10.24.50 PMThe recent debacle surrounding planned parenthood has been… well, uproarious to say the least. Some people are saying that PP is selling organs for profit, some are saying that PP is not making a profit but using the money for processing fees. I am not going to try to parse through the competing information on this. What I want to do is something similar to what I did with my post on genetic engineering and human children… I want to go through the possible scenarios and come to a reasonable conclusion that can be applied, no matter what the truth of the situation is.

I’d also like to make an important suggestion. Before we say “I disagree”, we should seek to understand what is really happening. Once we understand it, we can point out the problems with it. There’s no need for us to fabricate evil… if the evil truly is there. For those unaware of my stance on abortion, I am pro-life. I wrote about it here. Read the rest of this entry »

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Abortion 101 – Laying a Pro-Life Foundation

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Yesterday, January 22nd, was the anniversary of the famous Roe v. Wade decision made by the US Supreme Court in 1973, which was effectively a federally signed permission slip for women to get abortions. But many people, including myself, do not agree that the issue of abortion is settled by court fiat because… well, the court was wrong.

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 9.52.54 PMAbortion is an issue fraught with emotionally and rhetorically powerful arguments, so we have to make sure that we handle this issue with care. However, we are discussing an issue of great importance; if the pro-lifers (those against abortion) are correct, then we have been allowing the systematic destruction of the most helpless member of society for the last 42+ years. And if the pro-choicers (those in favor of abortion choice) are correct, then pro-lifers are looking to take away a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion.

Most of the ‘street-level’ arguments for and against abortion are a combination of assuming what they’re trying to prove (begging the question), personal attacks, accusatory motivational assumptions, straw men, loaded questions, and any number of other logically fallacious ways of thinking. How often have you heard a discussion on abortion where the pro-lifer is accusing the pro-choicer of hating babies and wanting to use abortion as birth control? …and in response, the pro-choicer accuses the pro-lifer of misogyny and being against women’s rights?
In fact, if you’re trying to hone your skills in logical fallacy identification, watch a popular level debate (on Fox News or CNN or something, those are almost always hilariously bad) and count the number of fallacies used by both people. That’s some hardcore on-the-job training, so be warned.

When we are approaching the issue of abortion, we have to ask two vitally important questions – one scientific and one philosophical.
What is the unborn? This is a scientific question.
What gives us value? This is a philosophical question. Read the rest of this entry »

A Christian Response to Ray Comfort’s ‘Evolution vs God’

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Tyler Dalton McNabb and I co-authored this back when Comfort’s ‘Evolution v God’ video came out and I wanted to repost it here because… well, because I like what we’ve written on the topic.

Ray Comfort has recently released another youtube sensation with his movie Evolution v. God. In typical Comfort fashion, Comfort interviews a handful of relevant college professors and students on the topic of evolution. Comfort’s main assumption in this movie seems to be that one must choose between God and evolution. In this battle royal or winner takes all match, Comfort argues that since evolution is bad science (if science at all), and the existence of God is obvious, God wins!

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 8.24.26 PMIn order to get to this conclusion, Comfort asks particular questions that range from basic epistemological questions to basic biological questions. It is in virtue of this that we will be separating this response into two major sections. The first major section will focus on the philosophical material that this movie contains, while the second major section will deal with the scientific material that this movie contains. In the following respective sections, we will be arguing that Comfort’s movie is based on both bad philosophy and bad science. Though in the end we will not be able to recommend this movie, we would like to recommend alternative apologetic resources at the end of this review.

Now before we begin this response, we would like to take time and mention that this response is in no way an attack on Comfort as a human being. We believe Comfort to be a loving Christian who has been mightily used by God. Though we are sure that many people will be in heaven because of Comfort and his ministry, we do feel that Comfort’s reasoning in this video reflects both poor philosophy and poor science. It is in virtue of this that we feel that Comfort’s video helps create an unnecessary stumbling block to the Gospel.

Alright! Go ahead and watch it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Why You Should Genetically Engineer Your Children

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Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 8.45.55 PMMost of us would do anything to help our children have the best future possible. We would make sure they had the best prenatal environment, the best diet and be sent to the best schools, all so that they could have the best possible future opportunities. But what would we do if we could, before they were born, alter our child’s genes in order to guarantee that advantage? The choice of genetically engineering our children is rapidly becoming a scientific reality, and we are faced with the question: If we are able to safely engineer a child at the genetic level… should we?

Genetic engineering is a topic that is greeted with a combination of curiosity, skepticism and apprehension. Those in favor of genetic engineering have been accused of “playing God”, whereas those opposed have been characterized as being against scientific progress. Many people view genetic engineering as something confined to the domain of science fiction; something so far in the future that it needn’t be worried about. However, with the advance of modern technology, this attitude towards genetic engineering is not only misguided, but can be dangerous.
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Cancer – What is it Anyway?

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Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 3.51.13 PMMany of you have likely encountered a kind of hype that is based almost entirely on the ignorance of the readers. People get a small glimpse into something they [rightfully] see as important, but because they don’t really understand it… they end up drawing erroneous conclusions.

Lets face it: many people don’t really understand cancer.
Its a difficult disease to understand, and people will often assume that there is some easy cure ‘out there’ and it is being concealed/ignored because cancer research facilities are just in it for the money (or… you know… something like that).

The first step in correcting this misconception is to understand what cancer is. With a proper understanding of the complexities of cancer, we can (hopefully) communicate this with people who do not understand it.

Cancer – What is it Anyway?

Cancer is the name given to a large group of diseases  that behave in a variety of different ways, depending  on the type of cell from which they originate. Broadly  speaking, cancer is associated with at least two  primary symptoms: uncontrolled cell division and  metastasis. In normal cells, the cell cycle is a tightly  regulated system that is highly controlled and  managed by proteins, enzymes and the corresponding  genes on the DNA molecule. In some cells, however, the regulations of normal cell processes are interrupted/altered by mutations. These mutations cause many genes to be expressed inappropriately, and this can lead to cancer.

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Darwin’s Postulates & Firemouth Cichlids

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This was a research project done in Evolutionary Biology (BIO405W) during the spring 2013 semester at Buff. State

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Cichlid fish are one of the most biologically diverse groups of vertebrates on the planet. This diversity (as well as population size, reproduction rate, etc) allows scientists to study the cichlid evolution, and the role of natural selection, more closely than other populations. Many aspects of cichlid characteristics have undergone (and are currently undergoing) selective pressures. Cichlid evolution can be found at multiple levels, including behavioral changes, molecular adaptations, size and coloration variation.

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 10.42.50 AMThorichthys meeki is a species of cichlid commonly known as the “firemouth”, because of its bright red-orange coloration on the jaw. This specific coloration is unique to the firemouth, and is used in mating, competition and defense, and is therefore strongly affected by selective  pressures. In general, male firemouth cichlids have prominent  jawline coloration (10). The female Firemouth cichlids have specific molecular adaptations that that allow them to see the male coloration very clearly (6).

In the case of the firemouth cichlids, jawline coloration in males (and the subsequent female response) plays an important role in the evolution of the species due to the pressures of sexual selection. Sexual selection has been shown to be a mechanism of significant biological change for firemouth cichlids, even if the environment stays very stable (9), and research confirms that male coloration corresponds to sexual selection by the females (8). The females tend to mate with the more dominant males, so any characteristic that improves one’s chance of winning in a male-male competition scenario will be selected for. In any cichlid population, males who display the same color will compete more intensely. In firemouth cichlid populations, all of the males have a distinguishing red color, so male-male competition is very strong (4).

firemouthIt has been shown that smaller, less dominant males have physiological and behavioral changes during any social interaction with a more dominant cichlid. (3).  Many times, cichlids will engage in “pre-fight behaviors” (7) and  whichever male is smaller and duller will back down (5).    The coloration allows the more dominant males to emerge victorious from a fight with other males, without even having to engage in actual physical contact. The firemouth cichlids open their mouths and expose more of the red jawline. This behavior enlarges the head considerably when seen from the front and the side. In the event that there is no definitive pre-fight winner, they will engage in the more dangerous physical form of fighting. (1) In many cases, coloration is directly correlated to body size, which also plays a role in determining the winner of the conflict. (2) Read the rest of this entry »

Homo sapiens, Neanderthals & Denisovans; Did They Interbreed?

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Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 9.40.20 PMRecent discoveries in DNA have shed light on the relationship of Homo sapiens and extinct hominids, Homo neanderthalensis and Denisova hominins. There is evidence to suggest that all three lived around the same time, and possibly in the same area (Krause et al., 2010)(Meyer et al., 2012). If these three groups lived close together, it should be possible to detect whether or not theyinterbred. If H. sapiens interbred with H. neanderthalensis and D. hominins, we should be able to find genetic evidence of this interbreeding in modern H. sapiens genomes. Using modern genetic examination (Gibbons, 2010), scientists have determined that H. sapiens did interbreed with both H. neanderthalensis (Green et al, 2010)(Hawks, 2013)(Meyer et al, 2012) and with D. hominins (Hawks, 2013)(Meyer et al, 2012).

Homo neanderthalensis fossils were first discovered in 1856 in Germany, and ever since, scientists have been exploring the relationship of Neanderthals to modern humans. (Gibbons, 2012) The first “draft sequence of the Neanderthal genome” was published in 2010 (Green, et al), and that has given us insight into the relationship of Neanderthal DNA to the DNA of modern humans. Using data obtained by the Human Genome Project (Intl Human Genome Sequencing Consortium, 2001), scientists can compare human and Neanderthal DNA in order to discover the genetic relationship between the two.  The evidence suggests that Neanderthals lived in both Europe and Asia before going extinct around 30,000 years ago (Green et al, 2010). However, many of the Neanderthals interbred with H. sapiens before going extinct. According to Green and colleagues (2010) andHawks (2013), modern humans living outside of Africa represent between 1% and 4% of ancestry from Neanderthal populations. It is possible, with modern genomic technology, for the average person to send a sample of her own DNA to a lab (ex: ‘23andMe’) and get results showing her ancestry. If she has European ancestry, it is possible that she will also have some small percentage of Neanderthal ancestry (Gibbons, 2012). These sorts of results would only be possible had the Neanderthals interbred with direct ancestors of modern humans. Not all of the evidence suggests that Neanderthals interbred with the ancestors of modern humans, however. A study showed that there were no contributions from Neanderthal mtDNA to modern human mtDNA from a specimen recovered from Mezmaiskaya Cave in the northern Caucasus. (Ovchinnikov, 2000) This is not necessarily contradictory data from the other studies; it shows that not all Neanderthal populations interbred with modern human populations.
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