Venter’s Synthetic Plagiarism Deflated by NY Times

first_imgHow significant was Craig Venter’s achievement of a so-called synthetic genome?  Somewhat significant, but it pales in significance to creating life from scratch.  It was only like “peering over a fortress that is the mighty cell,” wrote Natalie Angier for the New York Times Monday, May 31.    The article was accompanied with a cartoon by Serge Bloch of a musician playing a DNA double helix as if it were a concertina.  It ended with an analogy of researchers in synthetic biology making a few instruments, but failing to get an orchestra to sound together.  The running theme of the article was that molecular biologists are nowhere close to imitating what a living cell accomplishes with apparent ease.  Venter’s lab essentially copied the code, borrowed existing parts, and depended completely on cell machinery.  In effect, they plagiarized living cells, just like our earlier entry claimed (see 05/31/2010).  “Only on looking carefully at the genetic sequence in each cell,” she said, “would you find the researchers’ distinguishing ‘watermarks,’ brief chemical messages inserted into the otherwise plagiarized string of one million-plus letters of bacterial DNA.”  In essence, she said that everything except the watermarks amounted to plagiarism.  But then, it could even be argued that the quotations from Joyce, Oppenheimer, Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann, which they inscribed in DNA symbols, were not original work, either – nor were their own names, which had been assigned the scientists by their parents.  What, exactly, was original about this achievement?    Angier’s article employed amusing wordplay here and there, such as this excerpt: “Other researchers were impressed by the work but were quick to keep the feat on the ground.”  Throughout, she extolled the cell’s complexity and power: “every cell is a microcosm of life, and neither the Venter team nor anybody else has come close to recreating the cell from scratch,” she said: “If anything, the new report underscores how dependent biologists remain on its encapsulated power.”  On page two, she described how cytoplasm, which “pretty much has the texture of snot,” conceals a “beautiful architecture” within.  Venter’s lab merely utilized the architecture without constructing anything new:When the Venter team inserted the synthetic version of the Mycoplasma mycoides genome into the cellular housing of the Mycoplasma capricolum bacterium, the newcomer took full advantage of the resident cytoplasmic wares.  It used the thousands of little biodevices called ribosomes to stitch together amino acids into new proteins.  It relied on complex molecular assemblages to maintain its DNA in working order and to duplicate that DNA when it was time to divide.  It thanked its lucky base pairs that a greasy lipid cell membrane and stiffer bacterial wall not only kept the inside appropriately, bioactively dense, but also kept the outside appropriately out, for an exposed cytoplasm would soon be scavenged for parts, most likely by a neighboring microbe.    Considered together, the modern cell is dauntingly complex….Yet the article contained a strange tension.  Intertwined with praise of the cell, Angier repeatedly attributed its design to time and chance.  She made it sound as if time alone was responsible for the dazzling power seen in ribosomes, codes and membranes.  personified evolution or ascribed the majesty of cells to a single creative factor: time –Dr. Venter freely admitted his indebtedness to precedence.  His team, he said, was “taking advantage of three and a half billion years of evolution.”Throughout those preposterous eons, nature has had a chance to perfect the splendid entity of all earthly animation that is the living cell.The goal of contriving a self-replicating and autonomously metabolizing protocell, however, continues to elude them.  “We have the instruments,” he [Dr. Steen Rasmussen, University of Southern Denmark] said, “but it doesn?t sound like an orchestra yet.”  Just pick up your baton, hum a few bars, and give it three billion years.The take-away quote goes to Dr. Bonnie Bassler of Princeton: “I am always awed by nature and how it manages to work so well.”The Darwiniacs will continue to get away with this intellectual schizophrenia unless we, the citizen sanitizers of sanity, the local vocal focal points of biological logic, blow the whistle.  Natalie’s essay is a mix of sublime insight and utter absurdity.  “Hum a few bars and give it three billion years”?  What kind of nonsense is that?  Is that how Brahms and Mozart wrote their orchestral masterpieces?  Is that how anything of “beautiful architecture” and “encapsulated power” came to be?  No, it’s not, and no, it’s not snot either (cytoplasm, that is).  The exquisite design of cell architecture is nothing to sneeze at.  If time is all you need to create such things, the Earth has rocks that evolutionists believe are older than three billion years – how come they aren’t making codes and molecular machines and dividing into perfect copies of themselves?  It’s hard to believe that any self-respecting Darwinist would not be blushing after reading those statements.    Instead of merely claiming that “preposterous eons” are a necessary and sufficient condition for biological complexity, how about giving us a little empirical, scientific demonstration?  We challenge these researchers to go into their labs, put some sterile minerals, clays, and oils into a beaker with water, keep their dirty designing hands off and wait three billion years.  Natalie Angier can be the journalist to cover the story.  If something crawls out at the end of the experiment, all observers will surely be happy to acknowledge that time alone can produce a living cell.  (If anything did crawl out, we would have strong reason to suspect, given the deviousness of human nature and the difficulty of preventing contamination, that pre-existing life got into the beaker.)  We rather suspect that by the end of the first day the Darwin Team will be jumping up and down, crying out to Mother Nature and Father Time, just like the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel.  But rules are rules; we won’t let them touch it.  This has to be a demonstration of the creative power of time and chance alone, without any help from the intelligently guided hands of human beings.  We can even make it easier.  We can cut up dead cells in the beaker and provide all the components and building blocks.  Just add time.  That’s all Angier wants, right?    It will quickly become apparent just how preposterous those eons are.  They are not anything as preposterous as Darwinists themselves; for, by conjuring up preposterous things, whether eons, as here, or preposterous universes (09/20/2002, 07/02/2003), they contradict themselves.  Anything preposterous is both pre- and post- at the same time (by definition), thus canceling itself out, and coming to naught.  With apologies to Ogden Nash,The Darwin mind is a muddled beast;For sound discourse, it’s not a feast.Farewell, farewell, old Darwinist,I’ll debate one less preposterist.    Here’s a call to sane Darwinists (Note: we didn’t intend that phrase an oxymoron).  Join with us in condemning statements that attribute creative power to Mother Nature and Father Time.  Tell the press to stop parading absurdities like, “preposterous eons” will give “nature” (whoever “she” is) a “chance to perfect the splendid entity of all earthly animation that is the living cell.”  That may be poetic license, but it is not Darwinism.  That’s intelligent design.  We cannot carry on a reasoned debate about origins if there is going to be equivocation over terms and concepts.  We are going to talk past one another if you allow fairy-tale anthropomorphic gobbledygook into the discussion, where miracles can happen with mystical agents that can be snuck in with rhetoric, contrary to naturalistic core beliefs.  Stick with matter, motion, time, and impersonal law.  Furthermore, you cannot stash miracles of chance in unobserved eons, nor make reckless drafts on the bank of time (07/02/2007).  And it is not going to help your cause if your opponents understand Darwinian theory better than your defenders do.  Get your disarrayed team in order.  If we are going to mop the floor with you, victory is sweeter if we achieve it in a fair fight.(Visited 19 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

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Blitzbokke third as NZ win Sevens in SA

first_img10 December 2012South Africa lost just a single game at the Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens tournament in Port Elizabeth over the weekend – a record not bettered by any other side – but it came at the wrong time and the Blitzbokke had to settle for third place in the third leg of the HSBC World Sevens Series.After a sub-standard showing in Dubai, where the team missed out on the Cup quarterfinals, they lifted themselves to produce some excellent rugby, much to the delight of the home fans.Captain Kyle Brown and Branco du Preez were sidelined by injury, but Frankie Horne stepped up and did a solid job leading the side, while Cheslin Kolbe, playing in place of Du Preez, grew in stature as the tournament progressed and ultimately played a starring role in the playoff win that secured the Blitzbokke third place.A big differenceThe return of Cecil Afrika, although he was clearly not yet back to full fitness, also made a big difference as he pulled the strings and gave the South African team width on attack.After a superb opening day in which they won all their pool games, South Africa defeated the USA in the Cup quarterfinals, but then fell 12-5 to New Zealand in the semi-finals.“It was very disappointing,” Springbok Sevens coach Paul Treu admitted afterwards. “We had our chances and so had they, with the only difference [being] that New Zealand took the one that mattered.”‘They gave their all’Treu, though, must have been impressed by the wholehearted effort of his charges and he had good things to say about them. “I cannot fault the commitment of my players, they gave their all,” he said.“It is a pity we could not do it for the crowd, who supported us so well. At least we finished strongly and gave a good performance in the bronze final.”On the first day of competition, Saturday, the South African team got itself off to a flying start with a very impressive 29-7 victory over Samoa, who had won the Dubai Sevens a week earlier. They followed that up with a 12-5 win over France and a 17-7 defeat of Australia to finish the day top of Pool A.Only Portugal in a much easier Pool D, which also included the USA, Canada and Zimbabwe, managed to match South Africa’s perfect record.QuarterfinalsThe Blitzbokke duly dealt with the USA in the Cup quarterfinals, easing to a 17-7 win, while Argentina shocked Fiji 15-12, France edged Portugal 10-7, and New Zealand thrashed Wales 35-5.That set up a clash between the Kiwis and the Blitzbokke, with France taking on Argentina in the second semi-final.South Africa were first on the board against the New Zealanders, but frittered away some chances and a late try by the men in black sealed a 12-5 win for Gordon Tietjens’ charges.Extra timeFrance, meanwhile, needed extra time to sneak by Argentina 10-7. The lengthy match took a lot out of both teams and it showed in the last round of matches.The Blitzbokke kept a tired Argentina scoreless in the playoff for third place, running in five tries to stroll to a 35-0 win. Kolbe was the star of the show, dotting down three times, as he showed a good eye for a gap and excellent acceleration and speed.New Zealand, too, had an easy time of it, thumping the French 47-12 to become the third winners in the three tournaments held so far in the 2012/13 Series, following Fiji’s win in Australia and Samoa’s victory in the United Arab Emirates.It was a fourth victory in succession for the Kiwis in the South African leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series; they also claimed the title in George in 2009 and 2010.Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo materiallast_img read more

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Canada signs global pact to help rid worlds oceans of abandoned fishing

first_imgOTTAWA – Canada has joined a global alliance trying to rid the world’s oceans of millions of tonnes of old fishing nets.Canada is the 13th nation to join World Animal Protection’s Global Ghost Gear Initiative, an international alliance of nations, companies, and environment groups started in 2015 to go after one of the most significant contributors to the earth’s plastic problem.“We’re saying this is a critical issue for us to address,” Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said in an interview.Wilkinson added Canada to the alliance in Halifax this week as the federal government played host to G7 environment, energy and fisheries ministers.Fishing gear is a far bigger issue to the ocean garbage problem than plastic straws, water bottles and grocery bags, but often flies under the radar as governments and environment groups focus on single-use plastics that will get more attention from businesses and consumers.Measurements show fishing nets make up almost half the weight of the 80,000-tonne Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a soupy-mess of broken down bits of plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California. By size, the patch is bigger than the entire province of Quebec, and is the largest of five such plastic patches in the oceans around the world.In addition to nets, ghost gear spotted in the patch includes crab pots, oyster spacers, ropes, eel traps, crates and baskets. Fishers sometimes purposely abandon the gear, but often it comes loose accidentally and floats away.Josey Kitson, executive director of World Animal Protection Canada, says the lost gear is one of the biggest hazards for marine life. Research shows 136,000 seals, sea lions and small whales die each year after being tangled in abandoned fishing gear.“It does what it’s meant to do which is fish,” Kitson said. “It continues to fish indiscriminately catching whales, dolphins, sea turtles, even other fish that it wasn’t meant to catch.”The gear, mostly made of plastic, can float thousands of kilometres away and exist for hundreds of years. Kitson said lobster traps with Canadian information on them have been found on beaches in the United Kingdom, for example.Wilkinson acknowledged there isn’t a lot of good data to show how much Canadian fishing equipment contributes to the problem. He said tagging all fishing gear so it can be traced back to its origin is one of the initiatives Canada is looking at doing.A system to report lost gear, as well as improving the ability to remove rogue nets and lines from the water are also necessary, he said.Wilkinson said fishers on the East Coast trying to remove ghost gear are often prevented from doing so because existing regulations prevent the removal of gear you don’t own.The United Kingdom is the only other G7 nation already part of the ghost gear initiative, but Kitson hopes Canada’s participation will encourage others to follow suit.Kitson said her group is also looking for Ottawa to establish a dedicated marine debris program, and add ghost gear to fisheries management plans.“We’re really looking forward to working with the Canadian government looking ahead into the future to make sure that ghost gear is a priority,” she said.last_img read more

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