Showing posts with the label Evolution

Book Review: Outgrowing God

The year 2020 will certainly go down as a memorable one,  given our struggles to cope with a global pandemic.  When not out and about -- which was often -- I managed to pick up a great habit of reading at least 30 minutes every day.  This practice has given me relaxation, along with the joy of continually learning and gaining new insights to life.  Of numerous reads this year, I felt compelled to write a review on Outgrowing God , by Richard Dawkins.  If memory serves, I wrote a review on his earlier work, The God Delusion , back in 2009.  Indeed the two books have many similarities and it feels a bit deja vu to read his latest e-book.  Since taking a more leisurely stride in reading, no notes were taken along the way.  Relying on raw memory, Dawkins' key reasoning on why we do not need a god was:  Assuming the biblical recordings of Abrahamic God (in Judaism, Christianity and Islam) were largely accurate, and that itself is a big "if", the Almighty is simply too cruel,

Evolution in Action

A recent study on evolution is shining the spotlight on the three-toed Australian skink. When it comes to reproducing, some skinks are foregoing egg laying by giving birth to live youngs. Apparently, lizards living in the warm lowlands of New South Wales (NSW) are literally putting all their eggs in one basket, while their colder mountain dwelling neighbours are favouring live births. Various species of reptiles were known to have made such transitions in the past.  Not often do you catch them in action however.  What are the pros and cons of each reproduction method? Egg laying is a less taxing feat on the mother as she does not have to carry embryos. The caveat is a tantalizingly high mortality rate.  As for live births, the fetus has a shelter for development at the expense of the mother. This is certainly an interesting discovery, especially when the lizards are literally living in my backyard here in NSW! -PTS

A Creationist Argument on the Origin of Life

This article  holds a rare strong argument on the creationist view of life.  It attempts to show us that  not enough time has elapsed from the birth of the universe to allow for all the necessary trial and error in spontaneously creating and then mutating life to where we are today .  Though well written, there is one fatal flaw with its primary argument.  The probability argument does not stand, because to beat it, all you need to do is to be "lucky." I will admit that in our case, we need to be really lucky. Despite the seemingly improbable odds however, it is still possible that one hits the jackpot on the first try.  Just look at the lottery, there is almost always a winner.  And we happen to be one of many lucky winners over time! -PTS

Book Review: The God Delusion

Back in August, I wanted to do a deep dive on the origin of life. Well, my hectic 9 - 5 delayed this exercise by four months. Anyway, I started off by reading  The God Delusion , a bestseller written by the famous Richard Dawkins . This book not only defends atheism, but it goes so far as to attack the religious position. Here are some of the main principles explained: The God Hypothesis - Dawkins contends that if god really created life, then who created god in the first place? He goes on to remind us that the whole problem we started with was to explain the statistical improbability on the origin of life. Thus it makes no sense to take the god position because there is the larger problem of who designed the designer. In comparison, evolution by natural selection becomes a more probable and hence preferrable theory. Evolution of complex organs is possible - creationists argue that complex organs like the eye could not have evolved in a piecemeal fashion over time. This is be

Future Evolution of Homo Sapiens

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publishing of Darwin's On the Origin of Species . It is great that we humans have made it this far in the evolutionary journey. Where will we go from here?    Prediction 1 - Humans Cease to Evolve One condition for evolution to occur is the isolation of a species for beneficial mutations to become norms. In today's ever-shrinking world however, it is hard to find isolated human populations. Instead, cross-breeding over geographic distances is the norm. Thus Darwin's evolution machine has clogged and will eventually come to a complete halt. What is more, the concept of survival of the fittest is being discounted in our species. With medical advances in developed countries, almost everyone can live long enough to produce offsprings. It is not bad news to see people living longer, but don't expect to see X-men any time soon either. Prediction 2 - Humans Continue to Evolve A recent study suggests that due to ovulatory

40 000 Generations of E. Coli Culturing

Here is an exciting experiment through 21 years and 40 000 generations of E. Coli culturing later. Amazingly, some 653 mutations had occurred by the 40 000th generation. The moral of the article is that successive mutations do generally allow organisms to become more efficient dwellers in their environment. Turns out once again that Darwin was right! -PTS

Profanity for Pain Relief?

Thanks to this recent study , now we all have an excuse to swear! According to the findings, cursing not only is an expression of agony, but also a means to pain relief. I must admit my reservations about the experimental results. In a race to see who could keep their hands in uncomfortably cold water, subjects were allowed to mutter an expletive of their choice or use a neutral word. IMHO, the free use of profanity in the experiment -- as opposed to any social situation -- could have created intrigue or amusement in the swearing subjects, which in turn swayed the results in thier favour. However, I did like Steven Pinker's theory that "swearing taps into the defensive reflex in which an animal that is suddenly injured or confined erupts in a furious struggle, accompanied by an angry vocalization, to startle or intimidate an attacker." What's the verdict? Cursing is good for you if you mean it with vengeance. Don't over do it though, as the soothing effec

Using Math to Explain Evolution

One question that has always intrigued me is how did life originate on Earth? In fact, will be spending quite a bit of time on this topic as the blog develops. Here is a great article by Scientific American on using mathematics to simulate the dynamic forces of evolution. The idea is to create mathematical formulas that can describe the simplest of chemical systems which evolve over time. I am no geek -- or so I would like to think -- but the article does make one appreciate the beauty of mathematics. - PTS