Daily Archives: December 2, 2010

NASA’s new organism, the meaning of life, and Darwin’s Second Theory

ResearchBlogging.orgIn his highly readable book, One Long Argument, Ernst Mayr breaks down the body of thought often referred to as “Darwin’s Theory” into five separate and distinct theories, the second of which being “common descent.” Darwin’s second evolutionary theory (second by Mayr’s count, not Darwin’s) is really a hypothesis that could be worded this way:

All life on earth descended from a single, original, primordial form that arose eons ago.

The evidence in favor of this hypothesis is strong, but the test of the hypothesis … the means of disproving it, which is, after all, the point of stating it to begin with … is difficult to define, but like pornography to a judge, one would know it when one sees it.
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Wikileaks Mythbusting: Yemen Cables

There has been much talk about whether the recent Wikileaks leak of diplomatic cables will be a good thing or a bad thing. I would assume (and that is an assumption … which is why I used the word assume) that there would be some of both, some forward movement of progressive ideals including honest government and reasonably transparent diplomatic policies that value human rights and the environment, etc., and some damage to ongoing diplomatic processes or exposure of ammunition that can be used for nefarious purposes by nefarious figures and organizations. But, since some of that would have happened anyway (a leak of a cable is not the only way to embolden a terrorist, advance a philosophy, fix or complicate a diplomatic problem or solve an historical riddle) we may be better off not asking about the big and essentially unknowable picture, and focusing on individual cases. So, I’d like to look, in a preliminary way, at a couple of such individual cases
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