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Links With Your Coffee - Sunday

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I tend to read things about quantum physics and stuff like that — I don’t have a background in it, I try to understand it, I grapple with it. I don’t read for entertainment, I can’t see the purpose of that. Science is such an interesting area. It’s so fascinating to have lived in a period when religion has taken the thrashing it deserves. Not that it has entirely; we still have a few religions knocking around, doing exactly what they’ve done through the ages — which is f* up everything.

If you’ve been reading the evolution websites, you’ll know about the very nice paper in this week’s Nature by Douglas Theobald. (You may remember Theobald as the author of one of the greatest creationism-refuting websites of all: 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution: The Scientific Case for Common Descent. If you haven’t seen it, you should). In the new paper, Theobald makes a few conservative assumptions to show that the probability that all living species descend from a universal common ancestor is infinitely higher than any other hypothesis, including those of multiple origins of the kingdoms (Bacteria, Eukarya, and Archaea) or of rampant horizontal gene transfer betweeen species that would, by mixing genomes, make life look as though it had a single origin when it didn’t.

A REPORT by the National Research Council last monthgave ammunition to both sides in the debate over the cultivation of genetically engineered crops. More than 80 percent of the corn, soybeans and cotton grown in the United States is genetically engineered, and the report details the "long and impressive list of benefits" that has come from these crops, including improved soil quality, reduced erosion and reduced insecticide use.

It also confirmed predictions that widespread cultivation of these crops would lead to the emergence of weeds resistant to a commonly used herbicide, glyphosate (marketed by Monsanto as Roundup). Predictably, both sides have done what they do best when it comes to genetically engineered crops: they've argued over the findings.

Lost in the din is the potential role this technology could play in the poorest regions of the world -- areas that will bear the brunt of climate change and the difficult growing conditions it will bring. Indeed, buried deep in the council's report is an appeal to apply genetic engineering to a greater number of crops, and for a greater diversity of purposes.

  • Genetically Engineered Purple Tomatos Could Fight Cancer

    Using a gene from a snapdragon flower, researchers have created a purple tomato rich in antioxidants, and a new study has shown that cancer-prone mice that were fed the altered tomatoes had significantly longer lifespans than those that dined on regular tomatoes. The tomatoes’ purple hue was a side effect of the type of antioxidants produced, called anthocyanins


 

Comments

I don’t read for entertainment, I can’t see the purpose of that.

disingenuous asshole.

You tell him. I wonder what other forms of entertainment he eschews.

He's probably talking about Dan Brown rather than Poe.

On studying literature making one less religious - perhaps. What I've noted is that the more educated a student is, the less likely it is that s/he will be a fundamentalist in the religion of culture/choice. I haven't seen too many renounce religion all together, though that happens. I can say that having 2 older brothers who brought home good reading and me not much of a social life in middle school pulled me away from religion. I dunno - something about reading the Darwin papers and Vonnegut changed my outlook. I was younger and more impressionable, so I was atheist before I got to college. Once folks get to their 20's, change imparts itself slowly, if at all.

Btw Norm - thanks for all the food postings. Now that school is out I plan to catch up on this,

Re: science and literature vs. religion. That study and reports smell a little like bullshit spin. While the data might be true it's probably also as expected since pretty much no one out of high school goes into science without liking science and perhaps already thinking critically.

Postmodernism the enemy of religion? It's like saying New Age beliefs are the enemy of religion (which many religions do think). It's changing one drug for another. That's also unsurprising.

There already are purple tomatoes, for instance Cherokee Purple:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherokee_purple

I don't know if those are as rich in antioxidants as the GMO version.

I view the taking of genes from one plant (or animal) and inserting them into another as most likely to be unsafe, since it is a process unlikely to have been field tested by natural selection.

Genes are transferred "naturally" both within species and across species. If they are successful they survive and if not they don't. So are you saying that natural transfer of genes is also unsafe. Remember until it occurs it is untested by natural selection, the plants or animals created have never existed in exactly that form before.

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