Archive for February, 2013

Dualism redux

Dualism redux

By EcoEvo@TCD | Perspectives

My post on the problem of consciousness troubled a few readers because I dared toy with the idea of dualism, something so offensive to scientists I’m wary to speak its name. But I’m going to continue to argue for dualism because it’s not clear to me that it is wrong even for all the flack it has received. I think a return to this topic is also warranted because of the controversy generated by Thomas Nagel’s latest book, ‘Mind and Cosmos’. A charge made against my previous post was that dualism is a pernicious idea. Yet nihilism is a negative, and [&hellip

Intelligent Design: Part Three – Dr Alistair Noble’s ‘The Scientific Evidence for Intelligent Design’: the review

Intelligent Design: Part Three – Dr Alistair Noble’s ‘The Scientific Evidence for Intelligent Design’: the review

By EcoEvo@TCD | Perspectives

I would like to say that the talk presented a range of evidence for intelligent design and carefully countered the usual arguments against it. I would like to say this, but I can’t. The talk, which lasted over one hour, spent much of the time quoting non-scientists and misquoting scientists, painting ID proponents as martyrs to the cause and science as tautologically incapable of addressing questions of design. The religious beliefs of ID proponents were constantly referred to, despite supposedly being completely irrelevant, which was an indication that this was, after all, a religious proposition not a [&hellip

The buzz on neonicotinoids

The buzz on neonicotinoids

By EcoEvo@TCD | Perspectives

On the 31st January, stimulated by a European Food Safety Authority report, the EU proposed banning three neonicotinoid insecticides which have been implicated in causing honeybee decline. These insecticides are widely-used, systemic (i.e. soluble enough in water to move around the plant’s vascular system to nearly all plant tissues), and, like nicotine, affect the insects’ central nervous system. They are highly effective at reducing insect pests that feed on crops and reduce yields and value, and many farmers are concerned about the effect the proposed ban will have on crop production. But these insecticides can also end [&hellip

Sampling gaps in our understanding of primate parasites

Sampling gaps in our understanding of primate parasites

By EcoEvo@TCD | Research

*by parasites here I am referring to all kinds of infectious disease causing agents including bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa, helminths and arthropods. Why do we care about primate parasites? Many of the most devastating infectious diseases in humans have origins in wildlife. For example, the global AIDS pandemic originated through human contact with wild African primates and influenza viruses circulate among wild bird populations. These are not only historical occurrences. Recently, for example, rodents were identified as the source of a Hantavirus outbreak in Yosemite National Park, USA . As human populations continue to expand into new [&hellip

Palaeo-poetry and placental mammals

Palaeo-poetry and placental mammals

By EcoEvo@TCD | Reviews

  Recently Science published O’Leary et al.’s – new load of oil to fuel the burning debate on the origins of placental mammals. Just to be clear: there is an important distinction between mammals in general that includes many fossils from the Jurassic as well as the extant platypus, kangaroo and your grandma; and placental mammals that includes your grandma and the armadillo (but not kangaroos or the platypus) and no fossil before 65Myr. For readers that are not used to the debate concerning the first placental mammal here’s the main question: did the first placental mammals diversify [&hellip

Coursing conundrum

Coursing conundrum

By EcoEvo@TCD | Perspectives

At first glance, many scientific ideas can appear counterintuitive. A press release from a leading Irish wildlife charity in support of the proposed coursing ban prompted me to attempt to balance the discussion of coursing impacts on the Irish hare population. The bill to ban coursing is due to come before the Dáil in the coming months. However, the above press release immediately struck me as biased, and so I felt a discussion of coursing impacts was required before the public were asked to sign any petitions in support of this ban. For those unsure of just [&hellip

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day

By EcoEvo@TCD | Perspectives

  Roses are red, Violets are blue, If I were evolution, I’d select you. Author Adam Kane: kanead[at]tcd.ie Photo credit Floridapfe

Treasures of Natural History

Treasures of Natural History

By EcoEvo@TCD | Perspectives

The Natural History Museum in London is one of my favourite places. The majesty and beauty of the building’s design is a fitting exterior to house the truly stunning collections within. The new Treasures exhibition displays just 22 of the museum’s most prized possessions. It’s a special opportunity to see valued and varied treasures such as the type specimen of the earliest known bird, Archaeopteryx, Darwin’s pigeons and the Iguanodon teeth which sparked the discovery of the dinosaurs all lined up together. The stories behind the origin and significance of each of the treasures are fascinating. Although not one [&hellip

What is Life?

What is Life?

By EcoEvo@TCD | Perspectives

February 5th marked the 70th anniversary of the first lecture of what was later to become Schrödinger’s highly influential book ‘What is life’. While Schrödinger may be more popularised by his infamous zombie cat, it was his thinking with regards to how life can live with the laws of physics that have allowed him to transcend that major divide between the physics and biological communities. Schrödinger’s genius insight was to see life as a system behaving and constrained by the second law of thermodynamics, in particular describing the probable nature of a hereditary crystal, which would later [&hellip

Intelligent Design: Part Two – Dr Alistair Noble’s ‘The Scientific Evidence for Intelligent Design’: the claims

Intelligent Design: Part Two – Dr Alistair Noble’s ‘The Scientific Evidence for Intelligent Design’: the claims

By EcoEvo@TCD | Perspectives

“A lie can travel halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on” (Mark Twain, attributed). In my previous post I gave some background on intelligent design, the theme of a talk I recently attended by  Dr Alistair Noble. This time, I’ll try and address his claims. It is easy to say something that is not true. It is not always so easy to explain why it is not true. Such is my problem here. I can summarise Dr Noble’s arguments into a few sentences, but it takes paragraphs to explain why they are wrong. [&hellip