Open thread

Since I’ve been neglecting this blog while work is slowly wearing me down (and Fallout 3 has so much of my attention), please, feel free to consider this a “blank post” so you all can rant to your hearts content.

I’m upgrading WordPress again, as well, so let me know if anything breaks.

820 spams blocked?  Jeez.  Why do they even keep trying?

Open thread

Why do people, PhDs included, keep misunderstanding the concept of evolution?

This is why physicists don’t generally work on biology problems, and vice versa.  Two scientists at Princeton University made an interesting protein discovery, where a specific protein acts as a sort of error-correction for DNA strands, only now they think the protein they found is actually the mechanism driving evolution.

Now, you must be thinking, “what the hell is a computer geek with no science credentials doing, telling some PhD level scientists they’ve got their heads up their asses?”  And normally, you’d be dead right.  But in this case, these scientists are claiming that this protein is driving biological organisms to change themselves within their own lifespans, when all they’ve proven is that the protein corrects DNA replication errors (think Scandisk for the DNA in all your cells).

Here’s the thing about evolution.  It has no intent.  There is no driving force, no guiding hand — evolution is not equal to God fiddling with our DNA, it is rather the by-product of the natural world.  Evolution is defined as the net sum of what happens when biological organisms change from generation to generation, with the environment and random chance (like how even creatures with evolutionary advantages might sometimes eat a rotten berry or get seen by a predator and eaten), ending certain genotypes early.  Evolution is not pushing creatures to change — evolution IS the change, over time, of creatures upon whom an evolutionary influence is exerted.

So, here we have creatures that mutate certain genes naturally when they reproduce.  Some of these gene mutations are advantageous, and those creatures have an increased ability to survive.  Some are disadvantageous, and they are more likely to die before reproducing.  These mutations happen when the zygote is formed.  Later on, once out of that zygote stage, those aforementioned proteins try to prevent DNA replication errors throughout the body, because if a cell’s DNA is altered through a mutation, it can become a freckle, a mole, a cancerous tumor, et cetera.  So these proteins fight what could become cancer and kill you, but they don’t actively drive a living creature to suddenly sprout an extra arm or grow gills during that creature’s lifespan.

There need be no magic mechanism that “explains why all that random chance formed you and I”, because the naturalistic explanation works just fine in explaining that.  Over millions of iterations of reproduction, wherein genes have fused, new genes expressed, genes have had errors in transcription that happen to work out nicely, whole new features can come into being practically spontaneously when the environment selects for certain abilities.  The Cambrian Explosion happened after a dramatic shift in the environment.  Likewise when plants evolved to emit oxygen and started pumping out that otherwise corrosive gas in record amounts, so too did creatures evolve to breathe it.  No need for an invisible hand rewriting our genetic code, and no need for a special protein to drive us to change within the span of our own lives to adapt to the new circumstances of our environment, when reproduction and natural selection (meaning specifically, how some genes can be advantageous for survival or reproduction) both have explained the whole process quite nicely.

I’m likely to edit this post later to include a bunch of links or videos to explain things better.

Why do people, PhDs included, keep misunderstanding the concept of evolution?

Two computer cases I had tonight.

Tonight I fixed two computers “on-the-side”, not relating to my actual job.  One was a Vista laptop whose password had been lost — I downloaded and burned a copy of Offline NT Password & Registry Editor, used that to change the person’s password to the same as her BIOS boot and hard drive passwords.  This was a bright, shiny new Compaq, and incredibly hefty.  The screen was gigantic and beautiful.  A shame it was sullied by Vista.  I’d have had Ubuntu on that baby and travel in style, with XP on a boot partition for playing games away from my desktop (which would be possible given the sweet on-board NVidia it had access to — a shame it was wasted on Vista’s Aero decorations).

Heeeeey, I could play Fallout 3 on it and be able to not be a hermit.  You know, hang around out in the living room with Jodi while playing that Oblivion-engine-based Fallout revival.  I’m a bit surprised by how much of Oblivion I can still see in that game.  They did a decent job making what appears to be a first-person shooter with heavy exploration elements, basically Oblivion with guns.  Called shots (VATS — dunno what it stands for) are cool.

But I digress.  More on that later.

Case number two was a fantastic issue, and by fantastic I mean it puzzled me for several hours.  Local-ISP Internet Security Services, a rebranded F-Secure by F-Prot, apparently stomped on some files installed by Google Toolbar, causing the venerable old toolbar to refuse processing DNS while in Internet Explorer.  By extension, because the stomping seems to have damaged the internet stack itself, which Firefox has to share, it refused to process Firefox requests for certain webpages, and seemingly pushed all internet traffic over a localhost-based proxy (which I’m assuming Google Toolbar used to interpose itself into the flow of internet traffic).  As a result of this, the issue I was approached with was that the Local-ISP internet services installer was unable to, after installation of the software, actually contact their registration service (since its own traffic was redirected to that no-longer-existing Google Toolbar proxy).  The poor owner shut the computer down rather than letting the computer run without any kind of antivirus, and called me for help.

Local-ISP Tech Support had been no help whatsoever, having run through the uninstall and reinstall of the security product to no avail.  I’m thinking either they’re not aware of the incompatibility of their software with Google Toolbar, or I might just be off base on the exact cause of the situation as the whole timing thing is my only real concrete link between cause and effect in this case.  That, and uninstalling Google Toolbar via HijackThis having fixed the issue, which isn’t quite a solid evidence one way or the other for whether or not the security suite actually stomped the Google Toolbar files.  The thing is, I can’t see any other possible cause for the toolbar to have just fallen over and died.

Anyway, the installer for the Local-ISP software is running now, and I have all through the weekend to finish this thing, so I might as well go to bed.

Oh yeah.  Back is still sore, I’m heading back to the doctor ASAP.  It’s getting better, kinda, but it’s way slower than it should be.  Granted, I haven’t come to another crisis yet, I’m more worried that I’m just going to be stuck like this if we don’t start getting some x-rays or MRIs or whatever else and figure out what the hell is bugging my back so much.

(Mini update — I fixed the time frame.  I had intended to post this tomorrow morning if I didn’t get it finished, but I did, and forgot to go back and change “last night” to “tonight”.  Bet that’ll be funny in the RSS feed.)

Two computer cases I had tonight.

Well, they’ve stopped discriminating against blacks…

…but they’re still discriminating against gays.  Arizona has amended their state constitution so that only man/woman marriages would be recognized as a marriage in the state, effectively banning gay marriage; Arkansas has banned gay couples adopting children; and ballots are still being counted on the California proposition to repeal the law allowing gay marriage but so far the “yes” side is (meaning it WAS legal, but now it’s not, leaving who knows how many gay married couples in the lurch).

In two tiny bits of happy news amongst all that idiocy, at least medical marijuana is approved in Michigan, though that won’t stop the federal drug warriors from cracking down on all those evil 70-year-old glaucoma patients.  And the Colorado initiative to define “persons” for the purposes of legal definitions as being any human life from the moment an egg was fertilized, has failed, thankfully — and let’s get this one straight, that has absolutely nothing to do with fair protection under the law, it’s entirely for the religious folks who want to legislate women’s va-jay-jays.

Well, they’ve stopped discriminating against blacks…

What a relief.

MSNBC has called the election for Barack Obama as the projected winner with 297 to 146 electoral college votes, with 270 to win.  Who knows what the final map will look like?  Maybe 330+ EV for Obama, and if Bush can win with 50-percent-plus-one and call it a mandate, this goddamn landslide will provide a super ultra double secret mandate.  Early reports say that McCain has called Obama to concede, though that’s unsubstantiated.

At least now I can sleep.

Update: McCain just gave his concession speech.  Fuck sleep, this I gotta savour.

What a relief.

This is how you get interviews with Palin

Apparently, you have to have an accent and pretend to be a foreign head of state.

Some choice quotes:

Palin: “Thank you for spending a few minutes to talk toooo… meee!”

Fake Sarkozy: “We have the equivalent of Joe the Plumber in France – it’s called Marcelle the Guy with Bread Under his Armpit.”

Fake Sarkozy: “I love the documentary they made of your life – what’s it called, Nailin’ Palin?  It’s very edgy.”

After revealing the prank: “If one voice can change the world for Obama, one Viagra can change the world for McCain!”

This is how you get interviews with Palin