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Like, Make a Tree

first_imgThree Darwinist professors lamented recently in Science1 that few scientists are making like a tree: “‘tree thinking’ remains widely practiced only by professional evolutionary biologists,” they said.  And just what is “tree thinking”?  It is basically thinking like Darwin; i.e., looking at the living world with phylogenetic glasses:The central claim of the theory of evolution as laid out in 1859 by Charles Darwin in The Origin of Species is that living species, despite their diversity in form and way of life, are the products of descent (with modification) from common ancestors.  To communicate this idea, Darwin developed the metaphor of the ‘tree of life.’  In this comparison, living species trace backward in time to common ancestors in the same way that separate twigs on a tree trace back to the same major branches.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)What prompted this editorial?  “This is a particular cause for concern at a time when the teaching of evolution is being challenged,” they say.  But there’s a positive side, too: “because evolutionary trees serve not only as tools for biological researchers across disciplines but also as the main framework within which evidence for evolution is evaluated.”    While tree-thinking is useful for everyone, the art of generating trees is best left to the wizards:At the outset, it is important to clarify that tree thinking does not necessarily entail knowing how phylogenies are inferred by practicing systematists.  Anyone who has looked into phylogenetics from outside the field of evolutionary biology knows that it is complex and rapidly changing, replete with a dense statistical literature, impassioned philosophical debates, and an abundance of highly technical computer programs.  Fortunately, one can interpret trees and use them for organizing knowledge of biodiversity without knowing the details of phylogenetic inference.  The reverse is, however, not true.  One cannot really understand phylogenetics if one is not clear what an evolutionary tree is.They provide some examples of potential sources of confusion.  “Although closely related species tend to be similar to one another, this is not necessarily the case if the rate of evolution is not uniform:” for instance.  “Crocodiles are more closely related to birds than they are to lizards, even though crocodiles are indisputably more similar in external appearance to lizards.”    A statement like that would surely shock a novice.  It’s not the outward similarity, they explain, but the phylogenetic inference that counts.  Evolutionary history is not progressive, nor is it uniform.  In addition, we see only the tips of the branches inhabited by living or fossil organisms; occupants of the nodes (common ancestors of the branches) are only inferred, and may not have looked like anything alive today.  “Thus, for all its importance,” they caution, “tree thinking is fraught with challenges.”    But then how can anything fraught with challenges be important or useful?  Let’s revisit their motives for proposing that tree-thinking should extend beyond the cloisters of evolutionary systematics.  Here’s the bottom line:Tree thinking belongs alongside natural selection as a major theme in evolution training.  Further, trees could be used throughout biological training as an efficient way to present information on the distribution of traits among species.  To this end, what is needed are more resources: computer programs, educational strategies, and accessible presentations of current phylogenetic knowledge.    Phylogenetic trees are the most direct representation of the principle of common ancestry–the very core of evolutionary theory–and thus they must find a more prominent place in the general public’s understanding of evolution.  As philosopher of science Robert O’Hara stated, “just as beginning students in geography need to be taught how to read maps, so beginning students in biology should be taught how to read trees and to understand what trees communicate.”  Among other benefits, as the concept of tree thinking becomes better understood by those in the sciences, we can hope that a wider segment of society will come to appreciate the overwhelming evidence for common ancestry and the scientific rigor of evolutionary biology.1David A. Baum, Stacey DeWitt Smith, Samuel S. S. Donovan, ”Evolution: The Tree-Thinking Challenge,” Science, Vol 310, Issue 5750, 979-980 , 11 November 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1117727].This article is very revealing.  The best way to understand it is to imagine oneself in ancient Babylonia, listening to some wizards of hepatoscopy (divination by reading the liver) lamenting the paucity of awareness of their craft among the astrologers and the general public.  They make a pitch in the Chaldean Journal about how useful hepatoscopy is to the general science of divination.  While admitting that their charts and diagrams are difficult to devise, they nevertheless argue that the charts are useful representations of fundamental insights, and took an awful lot of hard work to produce.  Their recommendation is to print more copies of their liver diagrams and instruct the young in the basic concepts of interpreting livers until the concept of liver-thinking becomes better understood and appreciated.    Far off?  Not by much.  Look what they admitted: phylogenetic inference from the actual data of biodiversity is “fraught with challenges.”  The field is “complex and rapidly changing.”  It has its own “dense statistical literature” impenetrable to those “outsiders” of the art.  It is an arena of “impassioned philosophical debates.”  One can imagine Babylonian hepatomancers in similar circumstances, adjusting their charts each time the king loses a battle despite their prognostication.  No problem; it’s all part of the “scientific rigor” of The Craft.    Notice also that tree-thinking is an a priori stance one takes before looking at the data.  It’s a world view: “the main framework within which evidence for evolution is evaluated.”  But what is being evaluated: the evidence, or the framework?  Since everything must fit into The Framework from the outset, no amount of change, debate, challenge or complexity endangers The Framework.  It is the grid through which all data must be sifted, the colored glass through which all wavelengths must be filtered.  This is very different from a geographical map with which they compare it (see analogy in the Baloney Detector).  A map represents visible data that can be corroborated in the present; a phylogenetic tree infers relationships in the unobservable past.  We do not conform the data to the map, but the other way around.  Not so with the Darwin Tree of Life.  Evidence is really secondary, because The Framework is already established.  Branches may shift here or there, but The Tree, as Platonic form, remains sacrosanct.  (You’ll notice that these wizards only bluffed about the “overwhelming evidence” for common ancestry and the “scientific rigor” of evolutionary biology; see 08/11/2003 and 06/13/2003 entries).    Rightly did Jonathan Wells classify Darwin’s tree of life as an Icon of Evolution.  An icon is a symbol, a representation of an article of faith.  The early icons of Jesus were not evidence for his divinity; they were reminders and representations of what the faithful already believed about him.  Proof of his divinity came not from the icons, but from the historical facts and eyewitness accounts of his miracles and resurrection.  As such, “icon-thinking” and meditation on the artistic representations would have constituted a weak apologetic.  The iconoclasts of early Christendom did not deny the object of the icons, but argued that the icons became idols, mere graven images that distracted one’s attention from the real person of Jesus Christ.  How much more an icon based on false premises and absent evidence will mislead a scientist and obscure honest investigation.  Like the icons of pagan gods adorning ancient temples, it substitutes a fantasy for the real world.    These three Darwin Party soothsayers want to short-circuit the proof from evidence and train novitiates by having them meditate on the icons.  They want computer programs, educational strategies and accessible representations of the products of their divination; they want to say, “believe, then interpret.”  They want to push this Framework, this faith – indeed, this religion – in the schools, to raise a new crop of devotees and practitioners of The Craft.  Such flagrant advocacy built on such shallow premises deserves a response in kind, from an iconoclast on that level.  We quote the noted philosopher Biff: “Make like a tree, and get outta here.”(Visited 20 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

SA delegation attends Africa-Arab summit

first_img19 November 2013 Minister in the Presidency for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Collins Chabane is leading a South African delegation at the third Africa-Arab summit which got under way in Kuwait City on Tuesday. Over 60 leaders are attending the two-day summit organised by the African Union Commission and the League of Arab States. Aiming at strengthening co-operation between the two regions, the summit will focus on trade and investment, infrastructure development, transport, energy, agriculture and food security, and private sector development and co-operation. Other issues on the agenda are increasing the role of women in development, migration, and the need for peace and stability in the two regions. International Relations spokesperson Clayson Monyela said on Monday that South Africa’s participation in the summit was aimed at strengthening the continent’s participation in global issues as an equal partner, as well as gaining support for Africa’s development priorities. “South Africa believes that the summit comes at an opportune time when the African continent is seized with redefining her destiny and role in the globalised world,” Monyela said in a statement. The leaders are taking a mid-term review on the joint action plan, which covers a five-year period from 2011 to 2016, adopted at the previous summit in 2010. The Kuwait Declaration will be adopted at the end of the summit. South Africa’s relationship with Arab states remains cordial, with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates being the country’s biggest trading partners. South African companies such as Sasol and MTN have large investments in the Middle East, including in some countries belonging to the Co-operation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC). According to 2011 statistics, trade between the GCC and seven sub-Saharan African countries amounted to approximately US$16.7-billion. GCC-Africa two-way trade increased from about $2.7-billion in 1990 to about $6.8-billion in 2008. Accompanying Chabane at the summit are senior officials from the Department of International Relations and the Department of Trade and Industry. Source: SAnews.gov.zalast_img read more

Crowds continue to gather outside Mandela’s home

first_img6 December 2013South Africans from all walks of life continued to arrive at the corner of 4th and 12th Avenue in Houghton, Johannesburg on Friday to pay their respects to former president Nelson Mandela, who passed away on Thursday night.There were mixed emotions as candles burnt on the pavement lawn outside the late Mandela’s home. The mood was sombre but also celebratory as the crowds sang freedom songs and the national anthem, and people laid down tributes in the form of flowers, photographs, national flags, and decorated personal messages.Madiba died peacefully with his family by his bedside at 8:50 pm on Thursday night, and crowds began gathering outside his home as soon as news of his departure spread, prompting the closure of some streets to motor vehicles.Local resident Andrea, 21, said it was a blessing to have lived in the same neighbourhood as Mandela, adding that he had not just been their neighbour. “He was our grandfather. And the thought of him not being around anymore is a scary one.”Kenosi Machepa, Mandela’s next-door neighbour, said that while she took pride in the fact that she and others lived next to a world icon, it was difficult to claim him as their own. “We can say it has been a privilege to live next door to him,” she said.Globally, meanwhile, as tributes from political, religious and civil society leaders at home and abroad continued to pour in on Friday, Mandela’s passing became a trending topic on social media networks, with millions of people from all over the world celebrating of his life and legacy.And as the country’s flags were lowered to half-mast, Ster-Kinekor theatres announced that they would not be screening Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom for the next 24 hours, Primedia Broadcasting suspended all advertising on its radio stations, and the Johannesburg Stock Exchnage (JSE) suspended trading for 5 minutes at 11am as a mark of respect for Mandela’s passing.“We lost the father of our nation, and join millions of people around the world today in mourning,” Primedia Group CEO Kuben Pillay said in a statement.“Thank you Madiba,” Pillay said. “Thank you for giving up your freedom so that we could have ours, for teaching us grace and humility and showing us a better way. A great light has indeed gone out, and while we celebrate his life and legacy, we are deeply saddened by his passing.”Source: SAnews.gov.zalast_img read more

Zoho Integrates Google Apps and Keeps Step with the Giants

first_imgTags:#enterprise#Products alex williams IT + Project Management: A Love Affair Massive Non-Desk Workforce is an Opportunity fo… Related Posts Zoho is now offering full integration with Google Apps, allowing users to seamlessly access Google Docs from within the Zoho environment.  Zoho already provides integration with Google Apps via sign in. But this is the first time full access to Google Web Apps is available through Zoho applications. It’s another move by Zoho to compete with the giants of the business through integrations that allow for interplay across multiple platforms. Zoho competes with Google, Salesforce.com and Microsoft, too. But it has the uncanny ability to continually add complimentary integrations, making it a compelling alternative to the big guns of the market.Google Docs will initially be available through Zoho CRM, Mail, Docs and Projects, with a common user interface that gives users multiple ways to shift between both applications. Google Docs will initially be available through Zoho CRM, Mail, Docs and Projects. A common user interface gives users multiple ways to shift between both applications.center_img FeaturesGoogle Docs users can attach files to the Zoho CRM. This is supported in multiple modules such as leads, accounts and cases.Through Zoho Email, users may attach files directly from Google Docs. Files may be uploaded from Google Docs to Zoho Docs.In Zoho Projects, the company’s project management application, users may attach filed from Google Docs. 3 Areas of Your Business that Need Tech Now Integrations Add UpZoho also integrates with Sharepoint. It has mobile integration, and supports Google and Yahoo! sign in.These types of integrations add up, especially for the small business that is looking for a productivity suite without the costs and IT requirements that come with Microsoft Office.But Zoho has some challenges ahead. Microsoft is making a big play in cloud computing with Windows Azure. And Google Apps is not slowing down. Its feature sets are advancing considerably. Google sees a bright future in the enterprise and will market its products aggressively. Cognitive Automation is the Immediate Future of…last_img read more

Blockchain drives Wanxiang’s $30B smart city project

first_imgTags:#Blockchain#electric cars#IBM#IoT#Microsoft#Smart Cities#Wanxiang How Connected Communities Can Bolster Your Busi… Donal Power How IoT Will Play an Important Role in Traffic … Surveillance at the Heart of Smart Citiescenter_img Related Posts Another company jumped on the blockchain bandwagon in a big way, with Wanxiang’s $30 billion smart city project. The Chinese electric car maker announced the mega-project at the Global Blockchain Summit.Wanxiang said that it will invest $30 billion in a project that will integrate blockchain technologies with smart city innovations. The project will involve the purchase of 83 million square feet of land in Hangzhou, where Wanxiang is headquartered.Industry pundits predict that blockchain technology could revolutionize the Internet of Things (IoT), as it is capable of verifying a device’s every transaction, communication and change.This type of verification will become crucially important in smart cities where increasing numbers of connected devices will begin spouting data from all corners of the urban environment.See also: Outdated thinking on wireless could cripple UK smart cities“We want to use blockchain to manage IoT, and use it help devices to interact with each other,” said Feng Xiao, vice chairman of Wanxiang. “Smart appliances can be managed with blockchain.”In a similar vein, the government of Dubai announced earlier this year that its innovation department will be integrating blockchain into its smart city strategy.How Wanxiang will integrate blockchain with smart city projects is still being formulated, but company representatives are in talks with Microsoft and IBM on future collaboration.The project is expected to develop innovations at the intersection of cars, smart cities and blockchain. One example given was how the cost of electric cars could be reduced by using blockchain to confirm and enforce property rights in urban environments of the future.Wanxiang already launched a blockchain labWanxiang has already proven keen on blockchain technology with its launch of its $50 million Wanxiang Blockchain Labs. As well in $500,000 of ether cryptocurrency was purchased by a Wanxiang subsidiary in 2015.And as part of the project, the company will be actively looking to finance blockchain entrepreneurs who may be developing innovations that will align with Wanxiang’s initiative.“We can’t tackle all the use cases that might arise from the smart city project,” said Feng. “That’s why we’re opening it up to use cases from all over the world.”Wanxiang owns the American electric car manufacturer Karma and is planning to build a $375 million plant for making battery-powered vehicles. For Self-Driving Systems, Infrastructure and In…last_img read more

NRC: Put legacy data online, says rights body

first_imgA rights body in Assam has urged Prateek Hajela, the State coordinator for the National Register of Citizens (NRC), to make the legacy data available on its web portal.Uploading the data would help people who were left out of the complete NRC draft published on July 30 as many of them had “failed to collect the legacy data or collected wrong data” due to illiteracy and sheer ignorance”, the Citizens’ Rights Preservation Committee (CRPC) said. Legacy data is a set of documents comprising the NRC of 1951 and electoral rolls up to March 24, 1971, which is the cut-off date for detecting foreigners in Assam.Available for 3 yearsNRC officials said the legacy data was available online for three years after the exercise began. It is now under login credentials, which means the access is limited to certain officials. Public access to the legacy data was reportedly withdrawn after cases of misuse.“Easier access to legacy data would be of help for the left-out people during the process of claims, objections and corrections,” CRPC general secretary Bidhayak Das Purkayastha said.Political parties and NGOs across Assam have set up assistance booths ahead of distribution of forms for claims, objections and corrections from Friday. Some MLAs have taken up the responsibility individually.Assistance centres“We have set up Bidhayak (MLA) Seva Kendras in Dhekiajuli. We will support every single Indian left out of the final draft of NRC, and will ensure no Indian is left out,” Ashok Singhal, the BJP legislator representing the Dhekiajuli seat, said.Other organisations such as the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chhatra Parishad have expressed concern over the alleged move to penalise people who fail to prove the reason behind filing an objection to the inclusion of a suspected foreigner, doubtful voter or declared foreigner in the draft.“It is too premature a fear, since the Supreme Court would take a call on what will or will not happen during the upcoming phase of the NRC exercise,” an official said, declining to be quoted.Former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, meanwhile, criticised Mr. Hajela for a work “done poorly as proved by the apex court’s censure”. Not ruling out a “faulty” final NRC, he said the citizens’ charter would turn into “waste paper” if the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 is turned into law.last_img read more

Stowe Attends 2011 Captains’ Forum

first_imgThe leaders came together to consider their role as leaders and highlight how leadership on and off the field can be a factor in making sport inclusive for all Australians, in particular Indigenous Australians. The event included a dinner at Darling Harbour on Wednesday night, before the forum was conducted last Thursday. Stowe says that it was a great opportunity to be involved in the Forum and found it very beneficial.“It was great to experience sharing thoughts on leadership and diversity in sporting groups with other people at the elite level,” Stowe said. “The Australian Sports Commission grabbed 35 of their elite sportspeople and leaders to get together and discuss basically ways that captains and leaders influence their sport and to determine what sort of aspects we can have and influences we have on our sport. It was also used to see which ways we are best off in bridging the gap in getting indigenous kids into our sport and ways to get them in and keep them in.”“The Australian Sports Commission is trying to obviously find the ways we can influence as role models and as leaders to keep these kids in the sport, which they seem to be striving to do through different pathways. It was also an opportunity to get together with all of the leaders to be able to share ideas on leadership qualities and to bounce ideas off each other as to how to improve our skills and attributes.”A long list of sports and their leaders took part in the event, including Swimmer Brenton Rickard, Surfer Sally Fitzgibbons, Rugby Union player Dean Mumm and the Kookaburra’s leadership group. “It was great to have the input of so many different sports, from Snowboarding to Surfing, Tennis, Shooting, there were so many different sports that you could get ideas from and a lot of leadership qualities, from motivation right through to preparation and into handling your teams whilst competing through to training and all of the aspects of their sports. It was very beneficial.”Stowe says that is was ‘exciting’ to see Touch Football represented at the Captains’ Forum, and that it was great to see that many of the people involved at the event had some form of connection to the sport. “We had the chance to interact with some of the indigenous kids there and they were quite excited to see that the sport that they played was there. Out of the 20 kids there, there was probably 10 or a dozen that actually played Touch, it was good to see someone there from Touch, so it was quite amazing.”“Just talking to the other captains, a lot of them do a lot of cross training and it was amazing to see that if they hadn’t played Touch growing up they were playing it at the moment, they all facilitated in Touch which was great to see. It was really important I think that we represented the sport there and continue in doing so.”last_img read more