Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

New study: bird origins poses a convergence challenge to common ancestry

Male normal gray cockatiel preens his wife's crest

Male cockatiel preens his wife’s crest

We have to start this post with the definition of convergence in biology.

In evolutionary biology, convergent evolution is the process whereby organisms not closely related (not monophyletic), independently evolve similar traits as a result of having to adapt to similar environments or ecological niches.

It is the opposite of divergent evolution, where related species evolve different traits.

On a molecular level, this can happen due to random mutation unrelated to adaptive changes; see long branch attraction. In cultural evolution, convergent evolution is the development of similar cultural adaptations to similar environmental conditions by different peoples with different ancestral cultures. An example of convergent evolution is the similar nature of the flight/wings of insects, birds, pterosaurs, and bats.

All four serve the same function and are similar in structure, but each evolved independently.

And now, this new article on convergence in birds and humans, from Evolution News.

They write:

Everyone is familiar with the striking ability of certain birds (such as parrots) to vocalize speech, much as humans do. Well, according to the new papers published in Science that I wrote about earlier, confirming that birds arose explosively, those vocalization abilities are the result of “convergent evolution” at both the morphological and genetic levels.

Nature News reports, “The authors also conclude that vocal learning may have evolved independently in the ancestors of parrots, hummingbirds and songbirds.” But this is about more than just birds. According to a Science Daily article about the technical papers, the genetic “convergent evolution” extends to birds and humans:

“We’ve known for many years that the singing behavior of birds is similar to speech in humans — not identical, but similar — and that the brain circuitry is similar, too,” said Jarvis, an associate professor of neurobiology at the Duke University Medical School and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “But we didn’t know whether or not those features were the same because the genes were also the same.”Now scientists do know, and the answer is yes — birds and humans use essentially the same genes to speak.

After a massive international effort to sequence and compare the entire genomes of 48 species of birds representing every major order of the bird family tree, Jarvis and his colleagues found that vocal learning evolved twice or maybe three times among songbirds, parrots and hummingbirds.

Even more striking is that the set of genes involved in each of those song innovations is remarkably similar to the genes involved in human speaking ability.

If you’re already thinking “This isn’t ‘convergent evolution,’ it’s common design,” you haven’t seen the best part yet. Science Daily goes on:

One of the Dec. 12 papers in Science found there is a consistent set of just over 50 genes that show higher or lower activity in the brains of vocal learning birds and humans. These changes were not found in the brains of birds that do not have vocal learning and of non-human primates that do not speak, according to this Duke team, which was led by Jarvis; Andreas Pfenning, a graduate of the PhD program in computational biology and bioinformatics (CBB); and Alexander Hartemink, professor of computer science, statistical science and biology.”This means that vocal learning birds and humans are more similar to each other for these genes in song and speech brain areas than other birds and primates are to them,” Jarvis said.

These genes are involved in forming new connections between neurons of the motor cortex and neurons that control the muscles that produce sound.

The Science paper puts it this way:

More than 50 genes contributed to their convergent specialization and were enriched in motor control and neural connectivity functions. These patterns were not found in vocal nonlearners, but songbird RA was similar to layer 5 of primate motor cortex for another set of genes, supporting previous hypotheses about the similarity of these cell types between bird and mammal brains.(Pfenning et al., “Convergent transcriptional specializations in the brains of humans and song-learning birds,” Science, Vol. 346: 1256846-1 – 1256846-13 (December 12, 2014). )

So certain birds and humans use the same genes for vocalization — but those genetic abilities are absent in non-human primates and birds without vocal learning? If not derived from a common ancestor, as they clearly were not, how did the genes get there? This kind of extreme convergent genetic evolution points strongly to intelligent design.

The rest of the article talks about the conclusions of the study authors – they think it’s a huge problem – and it is.

I hope you’re all beginning to see why I love birds so much. I just adore them. In fact, I am excited about them right now, and will probably appear silly by gushing about how great they are. Fortunately, my editorette is not hear to stop me!

Birds are not just a living disproof of naturalistic evolution. They are also loveable and adorable. (Especially parrots, of course) If you guys are considering a pet, go out and get yourself a cockatiel, if it’s your first bird, or a green-cheek conure, if you’ve had birds before. Just remember that they live 20-25 years, so you have to be ready to face responsibilities, expectations and obligations if you make a commitment like that. And you know what? That is totally awesome, to have someone to care about. It’s good stewardship to care for animals. And if you can’t commit to a parrot of your own over the long haul, then put out an additional bird feeder this winter, and vote against wind power. Wind power kills birds, and I hate it.

Also, that bird in the Evolution News post is an Indian ringneck parrot. And they are awesome!!!!

More posts on convergence

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Should we use waterboarding to stop terrorist attacks against schools in Pakistan?

Map of the Middle East

Map of the Middle East

Let’s use a real example to assess whether harsh interrogation techniques are ever justified.

The Wall Street Journal:

Taliban gunmen stormed a military-run school in northwestern Pakistan and killed at least 141 people, methodically shooting schoolchildren in the head and setting fire to some victims in a horrifying 9-hour rampage.

Shahrukh, a 17-year-old survivor of Tuesday’s attack in Peshawar, said many students were assembled in the school auditorium when the gunmen burst in and started spraying bullets. He was shot in both legs and fell to the ground.

“I saw them set one of our teachers on fire in front of me,” he said.

The scale and level of brutality in the massacre marked a grim milestone in Pakistan’s seven-year battle against Islamist insurgents. Of the 141 killed, 132 were schoolchildren. Fifteen bodies of students were burned so badly they couldn’t be immediately identified when they were brought to the city’s Combined Military Hospital, security officials said.

Amir Ameen, 18 years old, said he and 11 other students were taking an exam when two gunmen entered their classroom. They shot students one by one, mostly in the head, he said from his bed at Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital.

The attackers shouted “Allahu akbar” or “God is great” over and over as they shot each student, Mr. Ameen said. They spoke Pashto—the language of Pakistan’s Pashtun ethnic majority in northwest Pakistan and southern Afghanistan.

[…]“The dead children we transported were shot in the head and in the face, some in the eye, as if the gun was close to them,” he said. “The children who were injured had gunshot wounds on the back of their legs and arms. They were in shock, but told us they were hit as they ran away from the attackers.”

[…]“They have attacked funerals and mosques, for them there is no limit. They are operating outside human values,” said Mehmood Shah, a retired security official in Peshawar. “They want to terrorize the population into submission.”

So that’s an example of a terrorist attack. This is 100% OK with people on the left, including self-proclaimed “Christians” who think that coddling terrorists is much better than saving innocent children from terrorists. They consider themselves moral – that’s why we need to see what they celebrate by opposing tough interrogation techniques.

One quick note: Barack Obama failed to blame the Taliban for the attack. It’s just workplace violence. Fort Hood was workplace violence. The attack on the Parliament was senseless violence. It’s never Islamic terrorism, because that would insult the terrorists and make them feel bad about what they did.

Now let’s have a defense of enhanced interrogation techniques with that example in mind.

This is also from the Wall Street Journal.

Bret Stephens writes:

I am not sorry Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the operational mastermind of 9/11, was waterboarded 183 times. KSM also murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl in 2002. He boasted about it: “I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew,” he said after his capture.

I am sorry KSM remains alive nearly 12 years after his capture. He has been let off far too lightly. As for his waterboarding, it never would have happened if he had been truthful with his captors. It stopped as soon as he became cooperative. As far as I’m concerned, he waterboarded himself.

[…]I am not sorry Osama bin Laden died by an American bullet. John Brennan , the CIA director, delivered a master class in rhetorical obfuscation masquerading as epistemology when he waffled last week about the quality of intelligence yielded by the interrogations of KSM and other high-value detainees. But several former directors and deputy directors of the CIA have all attested to the link between KSM’s interrogation and the identification of bin Laden’s courier.

I am sorry that the Feinstein Report, which failed to interview those directors and thus has the credibility of a Rolling Stone article, seeks to deny this. Maybe Sabrina Rubin Erdely, author of the discredited University of Virginia gang-rape story and a pro at failing to interview key witnesses, will find a new career in Sen. Feinstein’s office.

[…]I am sorry that Mr. Cheney, and every other supporter of enhanced interrogation techniques, has to defend the practices as if they were torture. They are not. Waterboarding is part of the military’s standard course in Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or SERE. Tens of thousands of U.S. servicemen have gone through it. To describe this as “torture” is to strip the word of its meaning.

In my previous post on this, I wrote about how waterboarding KSM also prevented a 9/11-style attack on Los Angeles.

Economist Thomas Sowell reminds us of the consequences of attacking the CIA, the military and the police.

He writes:

One of the most obscene acts of the Obama administration, when it first took office, was to launch a criminal investigation of CIA agents who had used harsh interrogation methods against captured terrorists in the wake of the devastating September 11, 2001 aerial attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Right after those terrorist attacks, when there were desperate fears of what might be coming next, these CIA agents were trying to spare fellow Americans another attack that could take thousands more lives, or perhaps millions more. To turn on these agents, years later, after they did what they were urged to do, as a patriotic duty in a time of crisis, is both a betrayal of those who acted in the past and a disincentive to those in the future who are charged with safeguarding the nation.

[…]The ease with which politicians are willing to pull the rug out from under people whose job is to safeguard our lives — whether they are CIA agents, the police or the military — is not only a betrayal of those people but a danger to us all.

People who are constantly denouncing the police, including with demonstrable lies, may think they are showing solidarity with people in the ghettos. But, when police hesitate to go beyond “kinder and gentler” policing, that leaves decent people in black communities at the mercy of hoodlums and thugs who have no mercy.

When conscientious young people, of any race, who would like to help maintain peace and order see that being a policeman means having race hustlers constantly whipping up mob hostility against you — and having opportunistic politicians and the media joining the race hustlers — those young people may well decide that some other line of work would be better for them.

High crime areas need not only the most, but the best, police they can get. Taking cheap shots at cops is not the way to get the people who are needed.

When people who volunteer to put their lives on the line in the military to defend this country, at home and abroad, see their buddies killed on the battlefield, and sometimes themselves come back minus an arm or a leg, or with severe physical and mental damage that they may never get over — and then see some headstrong politician in the White House throw away everything they fought for, and see enemy forces take back places for which Americans shed their blood, that can be galling to them and a deterrent to others who might otherwise take their place in the future.

If we cannot see beyond the moment today, we will pay dearly tomorrow and in many more tomorrows.

How about you? Would you be tough on a terrorist in order to prevent an attack like the one on the Pakistan school? Toughness deters future aggression. Or would you rather let the children die? I don’t have any trouble assessing these alternatives.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Four leftist women commit a hate crime against a Muslim conservative

The story is a bit complicated. Basically, a Muslim conservative wrote a satire of all the grievance-mongering at his university. Not only did the liberal campus newspaper go after him, but 4 leftist women also vandalized his dorm room.

First, let’s see some of what he wrote:

It was one of the coldest days of this winter past, and I was hurrying along the Diag to class. The blistering cold did not turn my eyes from all the white privilege falling around my. All those white snowflakes falling thick upon the autumn leaves, burying their colors. Majoring in womyn’s studies, I’ve learned that oppression comes in many forms. Sometimes we fail to notice it because it’s just everywhere – just like that white snow.

As I walked, I slipped on a patch of wet leaves lining the steps of the Hatcher, and I fell forward headfirst onto the steps of the library. If it hadn’t been for the left hand that I thrust out right before my fall, I would have ended up just another statistic in the war on colored people. As it were, a white cis-gendered hetero upper-class man came down the steps just as I was falling. He looked at me with that white man’s burden face that I see too often on this racialized campus.

“Cold, isn’t it?”

Behind his words I sensed a patronizing sneer, as if he expected me to be a spokespersyn for my whole race. He offered his hand to help me up, and I thought to myself how this might be a manifestation of the patriarchy patronizing me. I doubt he would’ve said those violent words had I been white, but he would take any opportunity to patronize a colored m@n or womyn. People on this campus always box others in based on race.  Triggered, I waved his hand aside and got up of my own accord.

He was taken aback. Suddenly I felt I was taking back some of that lost agency that colonialism had robbed my people of. I felt like Aamir Khan in Lagaan. That’s right, that white man wasn’t about to tax me. I didn’t even want to be that white. I turned on my heels and showed him my back.

He shouted after me, “I was just trying to do the right thing!”

The right thing… The right thing… I became so aware at that moment of the left hand that I had thrust out before falling, and suddenly my humanity was reduced to my handydnyss. The words rang in my eardrums, and my blood throbbed. This was the microaggression that broke the gender-neutral camel’s back. But unlike other microaggressions, this one triggered a shift in my worldview. All this while, I had been obsessed only with the color on this campus. All of a sudden, though, that became a side issue. All those race-based microaggressions now seemed trivial. I had, I realized, forgotten to think intersectionally.

The biggest obstacle to equality today is our barbaric attitude toward people of left-handydnyss. It’s a tragedy that I, a member of the left-handed community, had little to no idea of the atrocious persecution that we are dealt every day by institutions that are deeply embedded in society. So deeply embedded, and so ever-present, that we don’t even notice them.

He wrote that satire in the conservative student newspaper, but he was also employed with main campus newspaper.

Here’s what the campus newspaper did:

After his column was published last week, Mahmood tells The College Fix: “I received a call from the editorial editor [of the Daily] telling me that I had created a ‘hostile environment’ among the editorial staff and that someone had felt threatened because of what I had written … The issue had been taken to the editor in chief who procured a bylaw by which I was given an ultimatum to leave the Review or leave the Daily within a week. I was not allowed to know the name of the offended individuals.” He added the newspaper’s leaders are “forcing me to write a letter of apology as a condition for staying on theDaily” and suspended his regular column in the Daily.

Mahmood has written for both the Review and the Daily concurrently for this fall semester, but after this controversial column was published the Daily’s editors decided “Mr. Mahmood’s involvement with the Michigan Review presents a conflict of interest. Our bylaws say that once a determination is made that a conflict of interest exists, the person in question will have one week to resign from either the Dailyor the organization causing the conflict of interest,” according to a statement from the Daily to The College Fix.

And then came the hate crime (video captured above):

Security camera footage obtained Sunday by The College Fix shows a group of females changing into hoodies and other baggy clothing and proceeding to vandalize a conservative student’s apartment doorway.

Angry messages scribbled on papers posted around student Omar Mahmood’s doorway labeled him a “d*ck” and “scum” and included an image of the devil, as well as eggs, gum and hot dogs.

The camera footage was taken inside Mahmood’s apartment complex, which is just outside the campus property. Mahmood is known at the school as one who holds conservative and libertarian beliefs. The 21-year-old junior, who is double majoring in comparative literature and evolutionary anthropology, has written against the campus’ progressive social justice movements.

On Friday, The College Fix reported on the contents of the vandalism, which included papers stating: “You scum embarrass us,” “you self-righteous d*ck,” “you have no soul,” “everyone hates you you violent pr*ck,” and other derogatory messages.

The vandalism occurred at approximately 1:43 a.m. Friday and was discovered later that morning.

On Friday night, Mahmood filed a police report, and said he was advised to file a personal protection order against the women once they are identified. He also has an appointment scheduled with university officials on Tuesday for further investigation.

The video shows three women throwing on large hoodies and other baggy clothing that might mask their appearance while on the eleventh floor. Then they go to the sixth floor where they put the fliers and other paraphernalia on and around his doorway before taking pictures of their act and scurrying out.

[…]On a printout of “Do the Left Thing,” the vandals wrote: “Shut the f*ck up.”

That’s the level of fascism that you get if you an out conservative on a university campus today. And that’s why I use an alias, because these people graduate and they work alongside you, waiting for you to offend them so they can come after you. Just ask Brendan Eich.

UPDATE: Scott sent me this story from the The College Fix. It has photos from the hate crime. Viewer discretion is advised.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , ,

What happens if you ask 13 gay-owned bakeries to bake a pro-marriage cake?

Since Christian bakers are being forced by courts to bake cakes for gay weddings, wouldn’t it neat to see if gay bakeries will bake pro-marriage cakes for Christians?

Well, this blogger did just that:

Christian bakeries that refuse to make pro-homosexual marriage cakes are getting sued, they get fined, they get death threats, and they lose their businesses.

So Shoebat.com called some 13 prominent bakers who are pro-gay and requested that they make a pro-traditional marriage cake with the words “Gay marriage is wrong” placed on the cake. Each one denied us service, and even used deviant insults and obscenities against us. One baker even said that she would make me a cookie with a large phallus on it. We recorded all of this in a video that will stun the American people as to how militant and intolerant the homosexual agenda is.

If anyone who objects saying that our request for the cake was hateful, this is exactly the type of thing the homosexual activists do to Christian bakeries when they use the state to coerce them to make a cake with an explicitly anti traditional marriage slogans on it.

Here are the videos – WARNING: some have very vulgar language.

Video 1 of 2:

Video 2 of 2:

The videos contain very vulgar language, which is a stark contrast to the apologetic and humble language Christians employ when responding to the wedding-related requests gay activists. We don’t seek to offend, but they are totally OK with offending us.

I’ll just link to a few of previous stories on how gay activists forced Christian-owned businesses to service their gay marriages – through the courts.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , ,

New study: complication rate for chemical abortions is 5.2%

Story from Life News.

Excerpt:

The UCSF study, “Incidence of Emergency Department Visits and Complications After Abortion,” is based on a recent study of California Medicaid recipients. It appeared in the December 8, 2014, edition of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

California is one of the states that pays for the abortions of women enrolled in Medicaid. The study looked at the billing data from 50,273 Medi-Cal patients who had 54,911 abortions in 2009-2010.

[…]Nearly 8% (or between one in 12 and one in 13) of women showed up at the clinic or a local Emergency Room (ER) seeking some service within six weeks of their abortions. Some of those were eliminated from further study because billing records appeared to show that they came in for some service unrelated to the abortion. (These were not specified, but this could be something like smashing a finger in the car door, coming down with the flu, etc.)

But even pulling these out and other “complications not validated,” one is left with a substantial number of women dealing with medical problems resulting from their “safe” abortions.

On the billing records of those women returning to the clinic or going to the ER, they found women hemorrhaging, dealing with infections, uterine perforations – the sort of problems we’re supposed to think were relics of the early days following the Roe v. Wade decision when abortionists were just learning their craft.

A surprising number of these were related to the new chemical or “medication” abortion method that was supposed to offer women a safer alternative to surgical abortion.

There were nearly four times as many surgical abortions (34,755 first trimester, 8,837 2nd trimester or later) tracked by the study as there were chemical abortions. (11,319). Yet there were more identified complications associated with the chemical method (588) than they were for the surgical ones (438 for first trimester, 130 for 2nd or later) combined.

The complication rate for chemical abortions was 5.2%, versus complication rates of 1.3% for first trimester suction aspiration abortions and 1.5% for second trimester or later methods. This would make chemical abortions four times riskier than early surgical ones and more than three times less safe than a second or third trimester procedure.

This is hardly the “advance” or “improvement” that women were promised when the government was asked to approve RU-486 more than a decade ago.

I didn’t really want to take Life News’ word for this, so I looked up the study.

They’re right:

RESULTS: A total of 54,911 abortions among 50,273 fee-for-service Medi-Cal beneficiaries were identified. Among all abortions, 1 of 16 (6.4%, n=3,531) was followed by an ED visit within 6 weeks but only 1 of 115 (0.87%, n=478) resulted in an ED visit for an abortion-related complication. Approximately 1 of 5,491 (0.03%, n=15) involved ambulance transfers to EDs on the day of the abortion. The major complication rate was 0.23% (n=126, 1/436): 0.31% (n=35) for medication abortion, 0.16% (n=57) for first-trimester aspiration abortion, and 0.41% (n=34) for second-trimester or later procedures. The total abortion-related complication rate including all sources of care including EDs and the original abortion facility was 2.1% (n=1,156): 5.2% (n=588) for medication abortion, 1.3% (n=438) for first-trimester aspiration abortion, and 1.5% (n=130) for second-trimester or later procedures.

In other posts, I talked about the other risks associated with abortion.

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