Paley’s Watch Found

first_img(Visited 679 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0 There actually is a clock in the heath, and it’s in our bodies, too.What is a watch? It’s an instance of a clock. William Paley famously presented his famous “watchmaker argument” in Natural Theology in 1802, a book that influenced Darwin. Paley asked what one could deduce if he ran across a watch lying upon the ground in a heath. With cogent analysis, he anticipated the arguments of Michael Behe (Darwin’s Black Box) about irreducible complexity and arguments about functional wholes of Douglas Axe (Undeniable). Whether or not Paley took his argument too far, his “watchmaker argument” can stand on its own as a logical argument for intelligent design.Since a watch is a clock, but not all clocks are watches, we need to be sure that other instances of clocks support Paley’s argument. One might dispute Paley by saying the daily rotation of the earth is a ‘clock’ of sorts that is not irreducibly complex. The point of the argument is that a designed clock has a point. It’s organized in a way to tell time for a purpose. The earth’s diurnal cycle is oblivious to beings that might use it to tell time, but a watch was made for the purpose of monitoring the passage of time for human use. The Greeks had a water clock. Early medieval people had the hourglass. Christian Huygens invented the pendulum clock. As science progressed, clocks utilizing springs and gears, then quartz vibrations, and then atomic frequencies refined timekeeping to astonishing levels of accuracy. Timekeeping devices are so accurate now that scientists routinely have to consider adding a “leap second” every few years to keep instruments in sync with astronomical phenomena, and GPS satellites have to take very tiny relativistic effects into account.Critics of Paley might say that the early timekeeping devices, like the hourglass, are not irreducibly complex (IC), because any similar repetitive process in nature could be used by a person to infer time, even if it doesn’t happen for the purpose of providing timekeeping information to humans. Examples might be tides, the rising and falling of the Nile, or a regular geyser’s eruption. At some point, human clock devices certainly became IC, because nobody would assume nature could produce a modern atomic clock.One telltale sign of an IC clock mechanism would be if it contained switches that perform a function. Most of us have seen the mechanical trippers on certain clocks that flip lights on and off. Alarm clocks that turn on a buzzer or radio station are more examples. These days, the clocks in our smartphones can switch on all kinds of applications, and the “internet of things” is beginning to link whatever function one might desire to the passage of time, so that you can even reset your home lights in New York remotely from a Paris cafe. Hourglasses lacked these additional functions. Whenever we see a clock that can switch on another function that is independently useful, we’re getting close to IC. If it can switch on numerous functions, and simultaneously respond to external inputs to keep those functions regulated within tight constraints, then the case for IC becomes very convincing. If Paley’s 1805-era watch was IC, how much more would such a time-based, adapting, switching master regulator be?The Circadian ClockNow we are ready to announce the existence of such a clock: the circadian clock in all living things. Science Magazine published a collection of papers on biological clocks recently. In a leading Perspective article, Millius and Ueda discussed why organisms need circadian mechanisms, and how new knowledge is being gained about them:An internal biological rhythm, the circadian clock—which can be measured by changes in rhythmic gene expression, cellular activity, or physiological behavior—enables an organism to anticipate daily cyclic changes in the environment.Credit: Illustra MediaWe see in this quote that the clock mechanism comes from genes, which are sequences of information – not mere rhythms of natural objects subject to laws of nature (like the tides). We see also that these genes switch on functions such as cellular activity or behavior that are important for the organism. The genes can adjust to external inputs, such as sunlight, as when we adjust to jet lag. The functions that the circadian clock switch on are numerous, the article goes on to say. Effects occur at all scales, too, from the individual protein and organ to the whole organism. Even more interesting is the finding that timekeeping functions differ between tissues. This suggests that the regulation of circadian rhythms are customized for each tissue, for each organ, and for the whole organism (e.g., for diurnal and nocturnal animals). Here’s a sample of the complexity researchers found when they measured gene expression in the tissues of one species of primate, the olive wild baboon:Approximately 11,000 transcripts were expressed in all 64 sampled tissues, which the researchers called ubiquitously expressed genes, including many involved in basic cellular functions such as DNA repair, transcription, and protein homeostasis. Most of these ubiquitously expressed genes were rhythmic in at least one tissue, but there was little overlap in rhythmic genes between tissues, which suggests that tissue-specific mechanisms control oscillatory expression. For example, a gene that had rhythmic expression in the liver was constitutively expressed in the heart. Because ubiquitously expressed genes control fundamental biological processes, timing their expression can affect the overall function of a tissue. For example, diurnal regulation of exocytosis in the thyroid or adrenal glands may enable rhythmic release of endocrine factors, compared with other organs in which the timing of exocytosis is less important for function.The Whole-Genome ClockCredit: Illustra MediaIn another Perspective article by Carolina Diettrich Mallet de Lima and Anita Göndör in Science, we learn that the whole genome itself is organized to facilitate circadian homeostasis, that is, the maintenance of accurate timekeeping in spite of external perturbations.Maps of physical contact probabilities between distant regions have earlier revealed that the genome is organized into topologically associating domains (TADs) displaying high local, intradomain chromatin-fiber contact frequencies. Given that TADs constrain and thereby increase the specificity of enhancer-promoter (E-P) contacts, the mechanisms and dynamics of TAD formation are intensely investigated.This organization that regulates gene expression is highly specific, as would be expected for homeostasis. But it also exhibits flexibility. The Perspective article references a paper in Science by Kim et al. that shows that the circadian clock is not only reliable, it is able to adapt to changing conditions.Phenotypic plasticity, the potential for phenotypic change in response to external signals, drives adaptation to environmental fluctuations and requires flexible gene regulation. A seminal example of adaptive plasticity is represented by the circadian clock, which establishes 24-hour rhythmicity in physiology, metabolic activities, and behavior. As external time cues, such as light and food intake, can reset the phase of oscillations, circadian homeostasis enables light-sensitive organisms to both anticipate and adapt to daily environmental cycles. On page 1274 of this issue, Kim et al. provide a glimpse into the genome-wide complexity of transcriptional plasticity during the physiological circadian cycle in mice, with implications for our understanding of diseases linked with deregulation of the circadian clock.The Cell Cycle ClockAnother type of clock does not need to know the time of day so much as it needs to ensure processes occur in the proper sequence. Business project managers are familiar with Gantt charts or Pert charts that lay out the sequence of steps in a project, such as what steps need to complete before other steps can begin. A foreman on the project might establish checkpoints for go or no-go decisions based on upstream events. That’s what the cell does when its project is duplicating itself. Phys.org tells how proteins regulate the cell cycle:Credit: Illustra MediaCell division is the basis of all life. Even the smallest errors in this complex process can lead to grave diseases like cancer. Certain proteins have to be switched on or off at specific times for proper cell division. Biophysicists and medical biochemists at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) have described the underlying mechanism of this process. They report how different signaling pathways in the cell change the structures of proteins, thereby driving the cell division cycle in the right direction at the right time. The researchers present their findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.Lest anyone doubt that the cell cycle is irreducibly complex, read on:The cell cycle is an extremely complex and precisely defined process. “The parent cell has to double its existing components and then divide into daughter cells. In order to do this, numerous genes have to be switched on and off at very specific times,” says biophysicist Professor Jochen Balbach from MLU. The cell cycle is sub-divided into phases. These are controlled by what are known as inhibitor proteins, also called CDK inhibitors. Like a red traffic light, these proteins block transition to the next phase until the cell gives the relevant start signal. ConclusionPaley’s watch has been found. It was inside him all the time, as well as inside the heather on the heath. The exciting thing is, it is far more complex than Paley could have imagined. If a relatively simple watch on the ground was sufficient to infer intelligent design, how much more the regulated, flexible, switching circadian clocks described above?Exercise: Darwinians will undoubtedly rush to argue that there is an evolutionary path to the human circadian clock with all its complexity. Some early microbe found it beneficial to regulate its activity by the diurnal cycle. Later organisms got better at it, and over millions of years, here we are. How would you respond to this claim? (comments are invited). We have more to say about natural selection in a future post, but start with our March 13 entry, ‘Natural Selection? No – Sheer Dumb Luck.” The evolutionary comeback hinges on what ‘fitness’ means, and whether natural selection is a creative process with functional innovation as an expected outcome. It’s not enough to imagine a path and tell just-so stories about it. The actual random mutations that were selected need to be specified.Extra Credit: Many skeptics feel that David Hume answered Paley’s argument from design and basically overturned the case of the natural theologians. Hume, however, wrote his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion in 1779, a full 23 years before Paley’s book came out. Imagine a debate between Hume and Paley. Who do you think would have succeeded in 1802? Who do you think would win in 2018, now that we know much more about life, genetics and the living cell?last_img read more

SA second for budget transparency

first_img13 February 2009 Twenty-five countries surveyed provided little or no budget information. These included Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nicaragua, the Kyrgyz Republic, China, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. “The worst performers tend to be low-income countries that often depend heavily on revenues from foreign aid or oil and gas exports, and that have weak democratic institutions or are governed by autocratic regimes,” Idasa said. A low score on the Open Budget Index suggested that decisions about public spending were made behind closed doors, which excluded meaningful participation by citizens, Wildeman said, adding that governments that restricted access to budget information could be hiding unpopular, wasteful and corrupt spending. Only the United Kingdom gained a higher score, with 88 points, while France also scored 87. “Providing the public with comprehensive and timely information on the government’s budget and financial activities empowers people and allows them to judge how their government is managing public funds,” Wildeman said in Pretoria this week. “It also creates opportunities for citizens to participate in decision-making, which can strengthen oversight and improve policy choices.” South Africa has been placed second only to the UK on the Open Budget Index, an international measure of public spending transparency. The survey is directed by the International Budget Partnership, based in Washington DC, and is conducted by independent civil society organisations in the participating countries. The Institute for Democracy in SA (Idasa) is the index’s partner in South Africa. Access to information The least transparent countries were mostly located in the Middle East and North Africa, with an average score of 24, and in sub-Saharan Africa, with an average score of 25. Source: BuaNews According to Idasa, the index is a comprehensive survey of 85 countries that evaluates whether governments give the public access to sufficient, reliable budget information and opportunities to participate in the budget process and hold their governments accountable. Only five countries of the 85 surveyed – France, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK and the US – make extensive information publicly available, as required by generally accepted good public financial management practices. The International Budget Partnership described the state of budget transparency around the world as “deplorable”, with the average score for the survey being 39 out of 100 – an indication that, on average, countries surveyed provided minimal information on their central government’s budget and financial activities. Good financial management Idasa economic governance programme head Russell Wildeman explained that transparency in budget decision-making meant that citizens had access to information about how much revenue was being collected and how it was allocated to different types of spending. South Africa scored 87 out of a possible 100 points on the Open Budget Index, which is based on responses to a set of survey questions and assess eight key budget documents that international good practice requires all governments to publish.last_img read more

No stopping SA’s Rea Vaya

first_imgThe smart red and blue Rea Vaya buses line up at their specially built stations. (Image: Rea Vaya) MEDIA CONTACTS • Megan CameronBRT Marketing and Communications+27 11 870 4602 or +27 83 441 6747RELATED ARTICLES• SA ready for Rea Vaya• Rea Vaya gathering speed• Gautrain rolling along smoothly• Cape Town’s new bus system• All aboard the Tshwane ExpressJanine ErasmusThe fuel-efficient Rea Vaya bus rapid transit (BRT) system, launched in Johannesburg on 30 August 2009, is set to change the lives of South African commuters while doing its bit for a greener environment.Although the media focus has been largely on the ruffled feathers and strident protests of the minibus taxi industry, which fears major job losses, the benefits of Rea Vaya (seSotho, meaning “we are going”) far outweigh the perceived drawbacks.Rea Vaya is part of Johannesburg’s Integrated Transport Plan, an initiative to raise the standard of the city’s public transport to fall in line with the global standard.The system is a first not only for the country, but also for the Southern African region. Meanwhile, Cape Town, Tshwane and Port Elizabeth are implementing their own BRT systems.With the 2010 Fifa World Cup mere months away, the four cities, which all host a number of games, are ensuring that visitors will be able to get around quickly and easily.Green transportNot only will South African commuters now have a choice of transport to work, but the effects on the environment are not to be underestimated.In the short term the benefits include efficient and accessible service, affordable fares and easier traffic conditions. Medium term benefits include job creation and enhanced social interaction for those who up till now have had no way of getting around, and in the long term Rea Vaya will contribute to economic development as well as reduced pollution and a better quality of life.All of these factors add up to the development of a world-class public transport system.Described by the City of Johannesburg as the largest individual climate-change initiative ever undertaken by city management, Rea Vaya’s buses have efficient engines that run on low-sulphur fuel and emit less nitrous oxide and particulate matter, one of the primary causes of air pollution.According to Rea Vaya, if just 15% of people who would normally use their cars to get into the city switch to BRT, this will save a massive 382 940 tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2010, and an incredible 1.6-million tons a decade later.And hard-pressed Johannesburg drivers will feel the relief in the form of less traffic congestion.Speaking at a public transport summit held in August 2009, Johannesburg’s executive mayor Amos Masondo said that 47% of commuters travelled by public transport. This figure is further broken down into 72% travelling by minibus taxi, 14% by train, and 9% by bus.Advanced vehiclesRea Vaya is to be rolled out in three stages. Phase 1A, spanning 25.5km, is currently underway and is expected to be complete at the beginning of 2010. There are 40 smart red and blue buses currently operating but by completion of the initial phase, all 143 will be on the roads.The 86km phase 1B will follow later in 2010, and the phase is expected to be fully complete by 2013. This will see the route wind through 150 stations along 122km of trunk, or main, roads.The trunk routes feature the largest buses, articulated and able to carry 112 passengers each. These vehicles will travel only in the dedicated bus lanes and will stop at the Rea Vaya stations.Complementary buses have a capacity of up to 75 passengers and will be able to pick up passengers not only from Rea Vaya stations, but also from bus stops on the pavement.The feeder buses, with a capacity of 32 passengers, will bring commuters to the trunk routes from outlying areas. All buses are wheelchair-friendly.With the system running between 5am and midnight, passengers will be able to catch a bus every three minutes in peak times and every 10 minutes during off-peak periods.For those worried about the infamous tardiness of buses the world over, it may help to know Rea Vaya has an on-board global positioning system that will keep vehicles to a tight schedule by monitoring the exact position of a bus and advising the driver to slow down or speed up where necessary.Smooth runningThe initial service runs just over 25km, from Lakeview station in Soweto, to Ellis Park station in the city. Tickets cost between R3 and R8 a trip.Latest reports show that the system is running smoothly despite taxi demonstrations and the occasional teething problem. Rea Vaya is carrying an average of 8 000 passengers per day, after an initial surge of almost 17 000 passengers on day one, as a result of a taxi strike.Ultimately it is envisioned that taxi operators will make up the bulk of the planned bus operating company that will own and manage Rea Vaya.And the commuter will come out tops, as the notoriously dangerous and unreliable taxi sector and other public transport operators will have to raise their game to compete with the new system and woo their customers with good service rather than complacency in knowing passengers lack an alternative.Integrated transportRea Vaya is designed to blend with other forms of transport, such as the Gautrain rapid rail system. Combined bus stations and taxi ranks will facilitate passenger transfers between the two.Gautrain is currently in an advanced state of construction, with stations and viaduct construction well under way. The rapid rail system has also not been without its controversy, notably because of its high construction cost and probable targeting of middle class passengers, but many agree that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.Gautrain is expected to bring economic growth to the province through job creation, less traffic congestion and stress, and a reduction in costs of road accidents and the accompanying loss of productivity.It will also bring added convenience and reliability for commuters, as well as a far lower carbon footprint than the thousands of vehicles that jostle for position on the overburdened freeways between Johannesburg and Pretoria every day. The expected saving in carbon emissions is around 70 000 tons per year.The first Gautrain section expected for completion is the route between OR Tambo International Airport and the Sandton station, north of Johannesburg. According to the latest progress report, construction all along this route is going well. All eleven bridges are nearing completion, while work on the three viaducts is essentially complete.Ample choiceWith Metrorail’s Tshwane Business express – a service launched between Johannesburg and Pretoria in May 2008 and now running a second train – the Gautrain, the BRT, Metrobus, and taxis, commuters will have ample choice in their modes of transport.Johannesburg’s RideSmart campaign is also up and running – this is an initiative that encourages people to share rides. Drivers or passengers enter their names into a database and are automatically matched by the programme with others in their area.A further initiative that will ultimately ease traffic congestion is the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, which is upgrading and widening the province’s network of freeways, and introducing an electronic toll-collection system.Do you have queries or comments about this article? Contact Janine Erasmus at [email protected]last_img read more

Asia Cup 2018: Rohit Sharma’s India ‘looking forward to Pakistan clash’

first_imgAs the six nations gear up for Asia Cup 2018, the spotlight returns on the legendary battle between India and Pakistan.India will play against Pakistan for the first time since the ICC Champions Trophy final in 2017 when the two teams meet at the Asia Cup on September 19.It will be the first match played between the two arch-rivals since the ICC Champions Trophy final in 2017 which Pakistan won by a comfortable margin to lift the title in England.MS Dhoni-Shoaib Malik exchange pleasantries during practice session in DubaiIndia, who had beaten Pakistan earlier in the tournament, were completely outplayed in the final thanks to brilliant bowling performances from Mohammed Amir, Hasan Ali and Shadab Khan after Fakhar Zaman’s debut hundred at The Oval in the first innings which helped Pakistan post a mammoth 338/4 after being put into bat.Asia Cup 2018: Can Rohit Sharma shine as a captain once again?The two teams will get another chance at the Asia Cup to entertain the fans, who have been deprived of bilateral series between India and Pakistan since 2008.The boys are back in action. Time for the #AsiaCup to get underway here in Dubai. Snapshots from #TeamIndia’s practice session on Day 1 pic.twitter.com/alrBbzdaAbBCCI (@BCCI) September 14, 2018Overall, the two nations have played 129 ODIs with Pakistan holding a 73-52 advantage over India.Asia Cup 2018: Will Virat Kohli’s absence hurt India’s chances?But India, under the leadership of stand-in captain Rohit Sharma, will be the favourites heading into this match. The two traditional rivals have been grouped together in Group A.advertisementMS Dhoni’s chance to answer critics after average England seriesSpeaking during the captains’ press meet, Sharma said, “It is always exciting to play Pakistan. They are a great nation. They have been playing good cricket, off late. We are looking forward to that clash but again there are other teams here as well who are eying for the title.”Laxman names Shoaib Malik as real threat for India vs Pakistan”The games played here will be quite competitive. The focus should be on the whole tournament as everyone is here for the title,” he added.#WATCH: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Hong Kong& Afghanistan captains address media in Dubai ahead of Asi https://t.co/j3na7P7T5pANI (@ANI) September 14, 2018Reflecting on the climate conditions in the United Arab Emirates, where the Asia Cup will be held, the right-hand batsman said that it is not at all pleasant.”Climate is not so pleasant for sure. Exactly the reason we wanted to come a little earlier and get accustomed to the conditions.” he said.Rohit was also asked if the Asia Cup will be a build up to next year’s World Cup in England, to which he said: “In a way, you can say that. Every team wants to go to the World Cup in a good frame of mind. But we shouldn’t be looking too far ahead. Obviously the Asia Cup gives every team an opportunity to get the combination right before the World Cup.”The Mumbai batsman went on to add that while the World Cup will be at the back of his mind, it is better to take one game at a time.”I won’t understand how Angie (Angelo Mathews), Sarfraz (Ahmed) or Mashrafe (Mortaza) are looking at it and what their strengths and weaknesses are. But as the tournament progresses, we will understand what teams are doing.”The World Cup is too far ahead. We will play a lot of games before that. A lot of players will get an opportunity to stake claim for a berth in that World Cup squad. It’s a great opportunity to try for that perfect combination,” said Rohit.I am sure everyone is looking forward to it, but we will just focus on the match at hand. It is always exciting to play Pakistan, they have been great lately and have played very good cricket: Indian Captain Rohit Sharma on India-Pak match on September 19 #AsiaCup2018 #Dubai pic.twitter.com/41aCQ45kNsANI (@ANI) September 14, 2018India begin their Asia Cup campaign against Hong Kong on September 18 before taking on arch-rivals Pakistan the next day.Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed, on the other hand, termed the Asia Cup as a big opportunity for all the participating teams.Speaking on their own game plan ahead of the tournament, Ahmed said that they would be taking one game at a time.Pakistan, meanwhile, have won the tournament twice. The first time in 2000, when they beat Sri Lanka in the final, and then in 2012.advertisementlast_img read more