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Comment Re:He's not doing "astrophysics" (Score 1) 207

At some point years ago, I started referring to papers like his as examples of “The Twine-Ball Fallacy”. Meaning that if you wrap a core idea in enough layers, you can have it mean anything you want. (I used to refer to this as “Occam’s Twine-ball” because it was the opposite of “Occam’s Razor”, but it is simpler to explain without reference to that other idea.) The basic logic error is that many highly probable things chained together result in an actual cumulative probability that is low, while the writer thinks it means the cumulative probability is extraordinarily high. (0.9^10 = ~0.35, not ~0.9999999999) This fallacy is amazingly common in pseudo-scientists’ writings. Surprisingly, I don’t seem to find this concept described in the wiki list of fallacies.

The upshot of this is that any paper beyond a certain number of pages is most likely garbage. (The exact number of pages depends on the field and specialty, of course.)

Comment Re:Ouch! (Score 1) 207

As a research biologist, my experience is... If you're reading a biology paper, any equations discussed are most likely wrong. If you're reading a math paper, any biology discussed is most likely wrong. I find them all the time. I don't have enough time to waste by getting everyone to retract/correct their old papers. The guy in question comes across as an ass because he's focusing on fixing what people have already move beyond, instead of contributing his own new advances.

Comment Re:Rocking With My Sony (Score 1) 188

Likewise. I once had a Sony rep try to get me to buy something at an office store. He couldn't fathom why I would boycott them and I couldn't fathom how to explain why. I think I shrugged and said something about bad behavior by the Sony corporation. He asked if there was anything he could do to make me reconsider. I simply said, "No".

Comment Re: Mutation only, not evolution (Score 2) 208

Selective breeding is not evolution. First, it's not random and undirected, a requirement for evolution. Second, it creates no new traits. Selective breeding can only select among traits already existing in the genome.

Evolution isn't random and undirected. Random mutation paired with non-random selection results in evolution in the way it is conventionally thought of. Selective breeding changes the populations being selected, so does result in evolution.

Comment Re: Mutation only, not evolution (Score 1) 208

An essential aspect of evolution is that it is a random processing, not the result of conscious decisions by another organism.

What you've just described is in no way an essential aspect of evolution. It isn't even part of evolution. If some change in a population is the result of concious (or unconcious) decisions by another organism... evolution has still happened.

Comment Re: Mutation only, not evolution (Score 1) 208

There is no requirement for something to be alive for it to evolve.

The requirements for a system to evolve are pretty simple:
1. Some aspect of it must reproduce.
2. During reproduction, a "child" is similar to the "parent".
3. Sometimes traits change randomly.
4. Death happens.

Systems well outside the domain of conventional biology can experience evolution.

Comment Re: Mutation only, not evolution (Score 4, Informative) 208

E. coli evolved to eat a new chemical (citrate). It developed a new enzyme to do it. E. coli was previously defined as not being able to eat citrate. By the former definition, it has evolved into a new species.

How is antibiotic resistance a loss of function? Troll better, please.

Comment Re:it's all about precision (Score 2) 160

Those statement's don't mean the same thing. For example: consider an experiment where X was expected, however the magnitude of the X effect is unknown, relative to background noise.

Sure they do. For example: consider a paper where the statements do mean the same thing.

You really can't say from the single statement that was described as: "there is simply no way to turn that statement into 'common' English.". The paper would provide the context, in which this simplification would or would not be appropriate. For one paper, the simplifcation would be perfectly fitting. For another paper, a different simplification would be fitting.

The point the AC seemed to be making was that it is rather silly to say that something technical cannot be simplified.

Comment Re:obvious (Score 1) 125

Flaxen/blonde hair isn't a signal of youth of most cultures, because it simply doesn't happen, It might work as a signal of youth in a subset of European cultures or in Australian/Melanesian (as you note).

The blonde hair of Australian/Melanesian peoples isn't just in the females, though it is more prominent in females. That it isn't consistent with the UV-vitaminD hypothesis doesn't suggest sexual selection is involved, only that UV-selection isn't involved.

The pupil thing does sound likely, however. Cultures with predominantly black irises would have to rely on other characteristics to identify interest from others.

Comment Re:It's a gene (Score 2) 125

The ENCODE project has shown that effectively every piece of DNA is transcribed at some level. All ORFs are transcribed, but we don't always know a function/meaning associated with them. We keep finding transcribed sequences to be important which we had previously attributed to noise. There are even proteins with well-recognized functions that appear to have been derived from random noise-sequences.

There isn't a need to switch to metaphor with such a simple concept as this and doing so only confuses your meaning. "Syntactic term" vs. "semantic term" are near-meaningless phrases to me, even with the assistance of google. Both "orf" and "gene" are terms in common use that have specific and implied meanings in different contexts.

Someone in molecular and computational biology (like me) would also call the controlling element a gene. Science journalism is far too often full of such odd definitions and misunderstandings.

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