Archive for April, 2016

Apr 08 2016

Answering Creationist’s Unanswerable Questions

creationist-videoPointing out how completely illogical and unscientific are creationists is something I need to do on a regular basis here. A creationist who regularly trolls the SGU Facebook page recently posted this video, which is a great opportunity to meet my creationist debunking quota.

Like all creationist propaganda, the video does not make any serious or legitimate scientific points. The purpose is just to provide a plausible screen for denying one of the most solid scientific facts every established Рthat life on Earth is the product of organic evolution.

The video is a collection of “gotcha” ambushes of students and scientists, asking them loaded questions that defy a simple answer (because first you would have to unpack all the false assumptions in the question itself). It’s natural to pause after such a question, while considering how best to approach it. The segments often cut out after the initial partial response followed by a “gotcha” follow up statement by the interviewer.

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Apr 07 2016

Pig Heart Kept Alive in Baboon

xenofunAbout 3,500 heart transplants are performed worldwide each year. This is the standard of care treatment for end stage heart failure. However, more people need hearts than receive them. About half of the recipients of a donor heart have been on the waiting list for more than a year. About a third for more than two years.

In short, there are not enough hearts to go around. Artificial hearts exist, but only as a bridging technology – keeping people alive while on the transplant waiting list. Stem cell therapy looks promising as a treatment for heart failure, but also is years away. Growing hearts is probably decades away.

Genetically modifying animal hearts is probably the option for a human donor heart replacement that is closest to becoming a reality. Recently researchers report that they have made progress along those lines – keeping a pig heart alive in a baboon for over two years.

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Apr 04 2016

The NCCIH Draft Strategic Plan

NCCIHThe National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), formerly the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and prior to that the Office of Alternative Medicine, is developing their strategic plan for 2016-2021. They are seeking public comment, and my colleagues and I at science-based medicine (SBM) will be sending it to them.

The NCCIH is a center at the National Institutes for Health (NIH), which uses federal money to fund biomedical research. The center is largely the child of senator Tom Harkin, who is enamored of alternative medicine (I will use the term CAM for convenience) and wanted a separate office (then center) at the NIH specifically to fund research into CAM therapies.

About his center and its purpose, Harkin has famously said:

One of the purposes of this center was to investigate and validate alternative approaches. Quite frankly, I must say publicly that it has fallen short. It think quite frankly that in this center and in the office previously before it, most of its focus has been on disproving things rather than seeking out and approving.

If anything science should be tilted toward demonstrating that any new claim is false, and only ideas and claims that survive dedicated attempts to do so should gain tentative approval. Harkin gives away the game in this statement – that the purpose of NCCIH is to put a huge ideological thumb on the scale of medical science, to give special preference to exactly those claims in medicine which are least plausible, and then flip science on its head by seeking to approve them, rather than critically testing them.

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Apr 01 2016

Should We Hide From Aliens

Published by under Astronomy

transit-352Given the date today, I had to be careful. Is the Royal Institution investigating quantum astrology? No, but those Brits can be quite cheeky.

When I saw this headline, Lasers could ‘cloak Earth from aliens’ on the BBC website, I thought they might be having a laugh. The alternative was a bit of hyperbole in science news reporting, which is a daily occurrence. The paper on which the item is based was officially published on March 30, so I think it’s legit.

What’s going on here is that two astronomers, David M. Kipping, and Alex Teachey, did a thought experiment – what would it take to disguise the Earth from aliens using the transit method to discover the Earth? Continue Reading »

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