ญญWhat'sNEW in Cosmic Ancestry, beginning January 2021
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20 Jan 2021
Where do new genetic programs come from? Now, a newly named phenomenon is getting attention.
Constructive Neutral Evolution –
the hypothesis postulating that molecular mechanisms can evolve in the absence of evolutionary benefits.
Trends in Genetics, Feb 2021.
Functional Long Non-coding RNAs Evolve from Junk Transcripts by Alexander F. Palazzo and Eugene V. Koonin, doi:10.1016/j.cell.2020.09.047, Cell, 25 Nov 2020.
...junk transcripts provide the raw material... for functional innovation with relatively little adaptation involved.
Testing Darwinism... discusses the need for demonstrations.

14 Jan 2021
Orange K-type stars may be better than our sun for hosting living planets. For one thing, they last longer.
...Another Important Aspect of Planets That Could Host Life by Michelle Starr, ScienceAlert, 13 Jan 2021.
Thanks Thanks, Stan Franklin. The simplified chart tells the story.

12 Jan 2021 What'sNEW about HGT
The role of viruses in evolution is becoming further recognized and explored. Even the eukaryotic nucleus may derive from large DNA viruses — they produce nucleus-like enclosures. Today the suggestion is no longer startling and skepticism is waning. The viruses can readily supply complex genetic programming that is otherwise unexplained.

The eukaryotic system to uncouple transcription from translation is complex and employs hundreds of genes that act in concert. Medusavirus Ancestor in a Proto-Eukaryotic Cell: Updating the Hypothesis for the Viral Origin of the Nucleus by Masaharu Takemura, doi:10.3389/fmicb.2020.571831, Front. Microbiol., 03 Sep 2020.
Evidence supporting a viral origin of the eukaryotic nucleus by Philip J.L. Bell, doi:10.1016/j.virusres.2020.198168, Virus Research, Nov 2020. The eukaryotic system to uncouple transcription from translation is complex and employs hundreds of genes that act in concert.
Did Viruses Create the Nucleus? The Answer May Be Near by Christie Wilcox, Quanta, 25 Nov 2020.
19 Nov 2020, 26 Sep 2019 and 24 Sep 2019: recent news about giant viruses with cellular genes. Viruses... has updates since 1997.

11 Jan 2021
The Milky Way is full of habitable real estate....
The Occurrence of Rocky Habitable Zone Planets Around Solar-Like Stars from Kepler Data, by Steve Bryson et al., arXiv, 05 Nov 2020. ...A new galactic survey holds a clue by Nadia Drake, National Geographic, 02 Nov 2020.

09 Jan 2021
Simon Turner et al., 2021 ...the meteorites must have been exposed to liquid within the past million years. That's the conclusion of an international, interdisciplinary team who noticed "nonequilibrium distributions" of uranium and thorium isotopes in several carbonaceous chondrites. In some instances, water apparently flowed even after the meteorites broke free from their parent bodies. The report doesn't mention it, but their conclusion supports the theory that comets may be wet enough to support life for very long times.
Carbonaceous chondrite meteorites experienced fluid flow within the past million years by Simon Turner et al., Science, 08 Jan 2021.
Meteorites From the Beginning of the Solar System May Have Carried Water Quite Recently by Isaac Schultz, Gizmodo, 09 Jan 2021. Thanks Thanks, Stan Franklin.

Decades ago, Hoyle and Wickramasinghe proposed a surprising way for radioactive isotopes to keep ice melted inside comets. Their research is wide in scope, mathematical, and deeply probing.
Biological Activity in the Early Solar System in its Outer Reaches by Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe, chapter 7, Living Comets [7Mb pdf], University College Cardiff Press, 1985.
Comets: The Delivery System has discussion, references, and updates since 1998.

09 Jan 2020 What'sNEW about HGT |
... the cellular mechanisms underlying the horizontal transfer of plastid genomes are explored:
Horizontal genome transfer by cell-to-cell travel of whole organelles by Alexander P. Hertle et al., Science Advances, 01 Jan 2021; and commentary: Plant Cells Swap Organelles (with video), by Abby Olena, The Scientist, 07 Jan 2021.
Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms is our main webpage about HGT, with updates since 1997.

04 Jan 2021
Modern Science is uniquely powerful because, in Newton's day, it began to follow the "Iron Rule of Explanation". That's the thesis of The Knowledge Machine by Michael Strevens. The rule, profusely elaborated, dictates what counts as a legitimate move in the game of science. Most of what formerly qualified no longer does. I found Strevens' restrictions as confining as a straight-jacket. Eventually we see that he has misgivings, too! The Knowledge Machine

One manifestation of the Iron Rule is the "Tychonic Principle": the importance of observations with accuracy out to many decimal places. Kepler's use of Tycho's voluminous data exemplifies this principle. So would the careful measurement of the bending of starlight in the solar eclipse of 1919 — in theory at least. But the eclipse data were not very precise. In their interpretation, Eddington's prejudice had a much bigger role than precision. In general, Strevens' contentions — that early science was so primitive, the Scientific Revolution was so abrupt, and science is at last fully objective — seem debatable to me.

While reading the book, I often wanted to raise a hand and ask a question. Sometimes Strevens came around to the issue, but not always. For example, Strevens says that the Iron Rule guarantees consensus, which allows continuity, which he deems important. But sometimes consensus is completely lacking, as in the theory of evolution. How life evolves is one of the most contentious issues in the history of science. I see no consensus there, only crisis. Strevens has studied Thomas Kuhn but seems little persuaded by him.

Thanks to the Iron Rule, Strevens says, "Always there is something that even the most bitter enemies can agree to do next: another test." This is starkly wrong. The schism between Darwinism and Intelligent Design illustrates this. From my third-party perspective, the gridlock is especially obvious.

Still, I quite enjoyed reading The Knowledge Machine. I love knowing more about Aristotle, Francis Bacon, Descartes, Galileo, Newton, Kelvin, D'Arcy Thompson, Whewell and many others, in well-told episodes and colorful vignettes. Strevens' writing is easygoing, his scholarship is very impressive, and his ambivalence about his own Iron Rule is intriguing.

The Knowledge Machine: How Irrationality Created Modern Science, by Michael Strevens, Liveright, 13 Oct 2020.

...the questions that brought me to this topic, however urgent, are sometimes seduced into slumber by the cunning charms of a pressing plot. Analysis, however, is a light sleeper. — Jill Lepore, The Name of War
ps: Strevens prompts me to attempt to restate my own principles for science. In brief: To explain a phenomenon, one must show its material causes. By this criterion the standard big bang, quantum entanglement, and Intelligent Design are unexplained. Furthermore, the material causes must be ones that can be demonstrated. If so, the origin of life and ongoing macroevolutionary progress remain unexplained. To depend on material causes is, frankly, a faith. But if any phenomenon has immaterial causes, it falls outside the scope of science.
The Beginning quotes David Hume on the scope of science.
pps: I once asked Intelligent Design proponent Michae Behe, How does ID work? He admitted that ID's mechanism is unknown. He pointed out that Newton's theory of gravity, likewise, lacked a mechanism. But Newton's theory enabled astronomers to make many useful, precise predictions about the motion of the planets. With that level of demonstration, a material cause is almost assured. (Does quantum entanglement merit similar assurance?)
correspondence with Michael Behe, 12-25 Jun 2013.

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