Re: Abortion Rates Fell to Near 20-Year Low in 1997, etc.

From: Stephen E. Jones (
Date: Sun Jan 09 2000 - 06:22:59 EST

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    Below are web article summaries with links for the period 23 December-6 January
    in descending date order, with my comments in square brackets.


    Yahoo... January 6... Abortion Rates Fell to Near 20-Year Low in 1997...
    The number of legal abortions performed in the United States declined in
    1997 to the lowest level in about two decades.... 1,184,758 legal induced
    abortions were reported in 1997, the latest year for which figures were
    available. ... a 3 percent decrease from ... 1996 and the lowest ... since
    1978... factors could include a reduction in unintended pregnancies,
    increased use of condoms, reduced access to abortion services and changes
    in attitude to the procedure... (83/837) [While one illegal abortion is IMHO
    too many, this 20-year low might, at least in part, reflect a return to
    traditional values? The aging of the population is not responsible for the
    drop because the article says that when the number of live births and
    women of reproductive age are factored in, it was the lowest level since
    CNN ... January 6, 2000 ... (AP) -- A chimpanzee has shown it can
    remember the correct sequence of five random numbers ... Ai, had already
    demonstrated that she could put five numbers in ascending order when they
    were scattered across a computer screen.... ".. the relationship between the
    symbol and the underlying number," ... [adults can] handle strings of ...
    seven random numbers ...there is no clear evidence ... of chimpanzees that
    they use numbers in the wild. ... (71/804). Also at: &
    BBC... 5 January, 2000... Ai has been practising her skills for over 20
    years... "We can remember a seven-digit number at first sight... But here's a
    chimp remembering five... Ai got the fourth number correct 90% of the
    time... [and] the fifth number correct 65% of the time... "Ai inspected the
    numbers and their locations and planned her actions..." Ai, 23, is no
    ordinary chimp. She has been learning linguistic and other skills... since
    1978... (76/775) [Chimps are intelligent animals. But being able to handle
    random numbers does not seem to be much of a test of mathematical
    ability. And who says that an average adult human given the same training
    as this chimp, could not remember far more than seven random numbers?
    My take is that if this is the *best* that chimps can do, then it just
    underlines the enormous gulf between humans and chimps, even though we
    allegedly share 98% of our DNA. As Elaine Morgan asks, "If we are so
    closely related to them-and everything we have learned since suggests that
    the relationship is even closer than Darwin supposed - then why are we not
    more like them?" (Morgan E., "The Scars of Evolution", 1990, p1)].
     ... ABCNEWS ... Jan. 6 - Galileo, the robot Jupiter explorer, ends its
    spectacular mission this month. But don't suggest it should retire's still
    working .... Is there life on Europa ...? ...Greenberg ... has little doubt
    about the answer .... It's a great environment [for hardy organisms] to live
    in." His expectation is supported by discoveries of life's adaptability on
    Earth. Bacteria live in boiling hot springs ... Whole communities of
    organisms thrive ... around nutrient-rich hot water vents. These discoveries
    have given many scientists the intuition ... where there's liquid water, there
    can be life .... Greenberg has little doubt .... He says this "really is an
    environment conducive to life." He speculates that brownish reddish
    deposits seen on the surface are organic material ....project scientist
    Johnson warns against ... such speculation. He thinks the dark material may
    be inorganic .... Speculating about prospects for life is fun but very iffy ....
    (140/1468) [There is a basic confusion here between existing life adapting
    to and surviving in extreme conditions and thinking that life could
    *originate* in such conditions. Besides, as I have pointed out before, if life
    could arise spontaneously in such an environment then scientists could
    replicate that environment on Earth and watch life arise!]
    BBC... 6 January, 2000... Scientists have discovered marine iguanas
    [Amblyrhynchus cristatus] that can shrink themselves when food is scarce
    and then grow again in times of plenty... on the Galapagos Islands,...
    .cannot be explained merely by the shrinking of cartilage and connective
    tissue... their bones as well... depending on the environmental conditions...
    other animals could share the iguanas' shrinking ability... (61/611). Also
    ABCNEWS... The Amazin' Shrinkin' Iguana... Jan. 5 - On one island,
    iguanas grew up to 16 inches long - not including their tails - and 7 1/2
    pounds. When the warm waters of the 1997-98 El Nino arrived, the red
    and green algae the iguanas eat disappeared. In those two years, some of
    the iguanas shed more than one-third of their weight - and shrank in length
    by up to 20 percent.... (72/738) [Maybe the different sizes of the Galapagos
    Finches and their beaks is cause by similar non-Darwinian responses to the
    environment? The article actually says that other animals could share the
    iguanas' shrinking ability but this may have been dismissed as errors].
    Yahoo! ... January 5 ... Scientist Envisages Tiny Computers in Human
    Cells ...- Tiny biological "computers" could one day be built inside every
    cell in the human body to work as microscopic doctors ... Shapiro ... says
    this is similar to the way living cells already use the information contained
    in DNA to generate proteins. "Between 20 and 50 years from now we
    should know how to program cells to build these devices themselves, just
    as cells now create their own natural components"... (85/484) [Isn't the
    `blind watchmaker' wonderful. Before even true random mutation and
    natural selection existed he was able to build tiny biological computers
    which highly intelligent and trained scientists, with sophisticated modern
    technology, and existing living systems to learn from, will take "between 20
    and 50 years" to emulate!]
    Electronic Telegraph [6 January 2000]... THE ability to grow replacement
    teeth in the lab has come a step closer with the discovery of a gene that
    controls tooth formation.... Members of a Texan family who lack mainly
    their first and second molars were found to have a mutation in a gene
    called PAX9.... (51/513) [More gene therapy wonders. There is even a
    brief mention of the discovery of a gene for grey hair! I wonder what all this
    is going to cost?]
    Yahoo! ... January 5 ... Peter Singer ... will not give up his ... view that
    parents of severely disabled babies should be allowed to kill their newborns
    ... those who labelled him a Nazi were ... trivialising the enormity of Nazi
    crimes ... this was not reason enough for him to stop ... his "challenge" to
    the " ... ethic of the sanctity of human life." ... (51/528) See also at:
    a critique in the New Republic of Singer's philosophy and his new book "A
    Darwinian Left. [It seems that on Singer's own admission, the difference
    between what he and the Nazis advocated is only one of degree? With the
    "ethic of the sanctity of human life" gone, and it becomes normal to kill
    "severely disabled babies", what's next? Less severely disabled babies?
    Those with low IQs? Unwanted children? In fact the above critique points
    out that on Singer's view that it is ethical to abort perfectly healthy
    foetuses, taken to its logical conclusion, there is nothing wrong with killing
    perfectly healthy newborns.]
    Yahoo! ... January 5 ... The 1990s marked Australia's warmest decade
    since reliable records began 90 years ago ... in the face of global warming
    humanity should brace itself for "rising sea levels, changing precipitation
    patterns, ecological and agricultural dislocations, and the increased spread
    of human disease." ... (44/447) [If global warming increases as expected,
    the effects on humanity in the 21st century are likely to be catastrophic.]
    ... Yahoo! ... January 4 ... GM-Silkworms Could Become Mini-Chemical
    Factories ... scientists say they have found a way to alter the genes of the
    humble silkworm that could eventually make it into a miniature chemical
    factory .... (36/388) [More benefits of genetic manipulation - with no
    January 4 ... UK Asteroid Task Force to Assess Risks From Space Britain
    ... unveiled a panel ... to examine the threat of collision with ... Near Earth
    Objects ... once every 100,000 years an object hits the Earth of sufficient
    size to wipe out a quarter of life ... ," ... there were 5,000 objects crossing
    the earth's orbit big enough to pack a devastating punch ... a 0.6 mile-wide
    asteroid landing in the Atlantic would trigger a tidal wave 17 miles high
    and cause a nuclear winter lasting for months ... an asteroid ... on a
    collision course with Earth ... could be deflected ... by an unmanned probe
    carrying ... nuclear explosives .... (99/993) Also at:
    BBC... 4 January, 2000... detonating a rocky object would simply create
    lots of individual asteroids .... a better option would be ... a solar-powered
    engine ... that would then gently push the asteroid out of its collision
    course.... Estimates of the likely period of warning of a doomsday asteroid
    vary from two years to 20.... Asteroids bigger than two kilometres (1.25
    miles) would quite probably wipe out the human race but are only expected
    once every million years or so... objects in the range 50 to 100 metres
    could kill tens of millions of people if they struck a city.... (101/1068) [This
    100,000 year / quarter of life on Earth figure seems wrong. Surely a
    quarter if life on Earth hasn't been wiped out every 100,000 years, nor has
    a human life extinguishing collision occurred "every million years or so"? It
    is a design argument that over a period of 4 billion years there has been no
    asteroid impacts big enough to wipe out life, and in the last 100,000 none
    that have destroyed human civilisation (see Greenstein G., "The Symbiotic
    Universe", 1988, pp17-25)]
    Electronic Telegraph. 4 January 2000. A brief history of the future... Will
    we colonise the universe? Are aliens out there? Can computers outsmart
    us? In a unique interview, Professor Stephen Hawking, who has spent a
    lifetime applying his formidable intellect to the big questions, gives... his
    predictions for the human race... "In the next 100 years, or even in the next
    20, we may discover a complete theory of the basic laws of the universe
    (the so-called Theory of Everything in which quantum theory is unified
    with Einstein's theory of general relativity), but there will be no limit to the
    complexity of the biological or electronic systems we can build under these
    laws."... "By far the most complex systems we have are our own bodies.
    There haven't been any significant changes in human DNA in the past
    10,000 years. But soon we will be able to increase the complexity of our
    internal record, our DNA, without having to wait for the slow process of
    biological evolution. It is likely that we will be able to redesign it
    completely in the next 1,000 years... I rather doubt that they will be able to
    prevent it. Genetic engineering on plants and animals will be allowed for
    economic reasons and someone is bound to try it on humans... At the
    moment, computers have an advantage of speed but they show no sign of
    intelligence....But computers' speed and complexity...will probably continue
    until computers have a similar complexity to the human brain."... "It seems
    to me that if very complicated chemical molecules can operate in humans to
    make them intelligent, then equally complicated electronic circuits can also
    make computers act in an intelligent way..." "... will we make contact with
    aliens in the next millennium? ..."The human race has been in its present
    form for only the past two million years out of the 15 billion or so since the
    Big Bang. So even if life developed in other stellar systems, the chances of
    catching it at a recognisably human stage are very small.... if it's more
    advanced, why hasn't it spread through the galaxy and visited Earth?...
    (354/3756) [Interesting that Hawking thinks that a Theory of Everything
    could take another 100 years.]
    ABCNEWS... Dec. 23 - A type of DNA long thought to be inherited only
    from mothers may be influenced by dad after all, a new analysis indicates....
    scientists may have to rethink... the timing of human evolution.... when
    humans migrated into Asia and Europe and ... the age of "Eve,"... (49/496)
    [This has been around for a while and it will be interesting to see how it
    pans out. That there is some leakage of paternal mtDNA into the ovum is not
    new. That it has any major, long-lasting effect is what is in question.]

    "The simple observation that life has evolved-that forms that existed in the
    past no longer exist, whereas those that live today were absent millions of
    years ago-is not the same as a theory of evolution. Fossils are a chronicle
    of past life; they are not a history of past events. Such a history demands a
    causal theory of how and why one form became another. Darwin's theory
    of evolution by means of natural selection provided just such a causal
    explanation that converted a chronicle into a history." (Lewontin R.C.,
    "Human Diversity", Scientific American Library: New York NY, 1995,
    Stephen E. Jones | |

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