Neanderthals and humans interbred ‘100,000 years ago’

Neanderthal recreation

Neanderthals and modern humans were interbreeding much earlier than was previously thought, scientists say.

Traces of human DNA found in a Neanderthal genome suggest that we started mixing with our now-extinct relatives 100,000 years ago.

Previously it had been thought that the two species first encountered each other when modern humans left Africa, about 60,000 years ago.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-35595661

Social Coercion Theory and the Evolution of Human Violence

Some scientists argue that human uniqueness is the result of two primary features: one, that we are a powerful species, and two, that we gained our power rapidly. In this clip from the 2015 World Science Festival program “Planet of the Humans: The Leap to the Top,” molecular biologist Paul Bingham attempts to account for both of these features through an approach known as “social coercion theory,” which posits that humans control the conflicts of interest among non-kin to engage in large-scale social cooperation.

THE 25 BIGGEST TURNING POINTS IN EARTH’S HISTORY (BBC)

Link: http://www.bbc.com/earth/bespoke/story/20150123-earths-25-biggest-turning-points/index.html

Our planet has existed for 4.5 billion years, and it has been a busy few eons. Here are the 25 biggest milestones in Earth’s history. From leaps forward in evolution to devastating asteroid impacts, these were the turning points that shaped our world.

Appendix, a vestigial organ?

One of the evidence of evolution is vestigial organs. In this regard, appendix is one of the most often quoted example for humans. While exploring the subject of human appendix on Scientific American, I found the following articles:

 

Appendix (Not needed, but not useless)

“human appendix does appear to have originated at a time when primates ate plants exclusively, and all that fiber was tougher to digest.”

What is the function of the human appendix? Did it once have a purpose that has since been lost?

Loren G. Martin, professor of physiology at Oklahoma State University, says: “For years, the appendix was credited with very little physiological function. We now know, however, that the appendix serves an important role in the fetus and in young adults.”

That’s No Vestigial Organ, That’s My Appendix

A study in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology finds that many more animals have appendixes than was thought, and that the appendix is not merely a remnant of a digestive organ called the cecum. All of which means that the appendix might not be so useless. Steve Mirsky reports.

Does the appendix serve a purpose in any animal?

Thus, although scientists have long discounted the human appendix as a vestigial organ, there is a growing body of evidence indicating that the appendix does in fact have a significant function as a part of the body¿s immune system. The appendix may be particularly important early in life because it achieves its greatest development shortly after birth and then regresses with age…

Your Appendix Could Save Your Life

You may have heard that the appendix is a relic of our past, like the hind leg bones of a whale. Bill Parker, a professor of surgery at the Duke University School of Medicine, heard that, too; he just disagrees. Parker thinks the appendix serves as a “nature reserve” for beneficial bacteria in our gut.

A study by James Grendell, chief of the division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, at Winthrop University-Hospital shows that Individuals without an appendix were four times more likely to have a recurrence of Clostridium difficile, exactly as Parker’s hypothesis predicted. Recurrence in individuals with their appendix intact occurred in 11% of cases. Recurrence in individuals without their appendix occurred in 48% of cases.

 

The Great Debate – Can Science Tell Us Right From Wrong?

Source: http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/the-great-debate

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The Great Debate – Can Science Tell Us Right From Wrong?

On November 6th, 2010 a panel of renowned scientists, philosophers, and public intellectuals gathered to discuss what impact evolutionary theory and advances in neuroscience might have on traditional concepts of morality. If human morality is an evolutionary adaptation and if neuroscientists can identify specific brain circuitry governing moral judgment, can scientists determine what is, in fact, right and wrong? The panelists were psychologist Steven Pinker, author Sam Harris, philosopher Patricia Churchland, physicist Lawrence Krauss, philosopher Simon Blackburn, bioethicist Peter Singer and The Science Network’s Roger Bingham.
Recorded live at the Arizona State University Gammage auditorium.
“The Great Debate” was sponsored by the ASU Origins Project in collaboration with the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law Center for Law, Science and Innovation; the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge; and The Science Network.

 

The Great Debate Panel

The Great Debate Panel

Speakers: Steven Pinker, Sam Harris, Patricia Churchland, Lawrence Krauss, Simon Blackburn, Peter Singer and Roger Bingham

Run Time: 42 minutes

A lively panel discussion between Sam Harris, Patricia Smith Churchland, Peter Singer, Lawrence Krauss, Simon Blackburn, Steven Pinker, and Roger Bingham. If human morality is an evolutionary adaptation and if neuroscientists can identify specific brain circuitry governing moral judgment, can scientists determine what is, in fact, right and wrong?

 

Sam Harris with an introduction by Roger Bingham

Sam Harris with an introduction by Roger Bingham
Run Time: 19 minutes

Speaker: Sam Harris is the author of the New York Times bestsellers “The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values,” “The End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation.” “The End of Faith” won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction. Harris has a doctorate in neuroscience from UCLA and a degree in philosophy from Stanford University. He is a co-founder and CEO of Project Reason, a nonprofit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society.

Talk: Sam Harries claims that there is no gap between facts and values. Once evolution gave us beings with experience which can vary within the limits of biology,the upshot was morality. Moral Good could simply be defined as the well-being of conscious beings (humans and animals).

 

Patricia Smith Churchland

Patricia Smith Churchland
Run Time: 14 minutes

Speaker: Patricia Smith Churchland is a Professor Emerita of Philosophy at the University of California, San Diego. She is also an adjunct faculty member at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Her research focuses on the interface between neuroscience and philosophy. Her books include “Brain-Wise: Studies in Neurophilosophy,” ”Neurophilosophy: Toward a Unified Science of the Mind-Brain” and “On the Contrary: Critical Essays 1987-1997,” with husband Paul M. Churchland. Her newest book, “Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality,” is due out in spring 2011.

Talk: There is one end of the spectrum where it is easy to make value judgments based on facts, but there are scenarios where it is much more difficult. Having more facts might help but in some cases it is just a difference in value rather than facts. For instance, interventionist approach to do good which might actually make the situation worse, academic arrogance might lead to silliness etc..

 

Peter Singer

Peter Singer

Run Time: 14 minutes

Speaker: Peter Singer is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. He is also a Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne. Singer first became well-known internationally after the publication of “Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals.” His latest books include “The Life You Can Save: How to Do Your Part to End World Poverty” and “The Life You Can Save: Acting now to end world poverty.” Singer was the founding president of the International Association of Bioethics, and with Helga Kuhse, founding co-editor of the journal Bioethics. Outside academic life, he is the co-founder and president of The Great Ape Project, an international effort to obtain basic rights for chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. He is also president of Animal Rights International.

Talk: Peter makes the case the science can’t tell us right from wrong, though it does provide us with information which helps in making moral decisions. If Darwin is right, than it is a proof that might is right, one said. But we as humans don’t want to stick to the moral inclinations which are a result of evolution, rather we want to transcend them. Moreover, science cannot give us moral premises.

 

Lawrence Krauss

Lawrence Krauss

Run Time: 14 minutes

Speaker: Lawrence Krauss is a Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and Department of Physics in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He also is director of the ASU Origins Project. He is the only physicist to have received the highest awards from all three major U.S. professional physics societies. His popular publications include “The Physics of Star Trek,” “Quintessence,” “Atom,” “Hiding in the Mirror,” and due out in 2011, “Quantum Man: Richard Feynman’s Life in Science” and “A Universe from Nothing.”

Talk: It is not possible to tell right from wrong without science, because it provides the crucial information required to make these decisions and it is the only method to explore the actual world. We can ask actual questions like does putting a woman in bag makes her more happy and get answers.

 

Simon Blackburn

Simon Blackburn

Run Time: 12 minutes

Speaker: Simon Blackburn is the Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Trinity College. He is also a visiting distinguished research professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Blackburn has written extensively on the philosophy of mind, language and psychology. Among his latest works are “Practical Tortoise Raising and Other Philosophical Essays,” “The Big Questions: Philosophy” and “How to Read Hume.”

Talk: Science can inform us in making moral judgments but it cannot answer our moral questions. It can’t tell us whether Buddha is right in giving up all desires. It can’t tell whether to take our kids to holiday or denote to save lives in Africa.

 

Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker

Run Time: 12 minutes

Speaker: Steven Pinker is Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard. His research is on visual cognition and the psychology of language. Among his books are “The Language Instinct,” “How the Mind Works” and “The Blank Slate.” He has been named Humanist of the Year, and is listed in Foreign Policy and Prospect magazine’s “The World’s Top 100 Public Intellectuals” and in Time magazine’s “The 100 Most Influential People in the World Today.” His latest book is “The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature.”

Talk: Religion cannot tell us right from wrong. Dogma, scripture, authority or subjective certainty are pathetic reasons to believe in something to be good. Such dogma has caused a lot of suffering like human sacrifice prevalent in religious societies, witch hunt, harsh punishments for petty crimes etc.. Reasoning tells us what’s right and wrong, which is not part of science as the term is generally understood, but could be included in science if we take a broad definition.

Last four hundred years of history shows us that there is definite in progress morality due to the raise of science.

The Great Debate – What is Life? (ASU Origins Project and TSN)

Source: http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/the-great-debate-what-is-life

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Richard Dawkins, J. Craig Venter, Nobel laureates Sidney Altman and Leland Hartwell, Chris McKay, Paul Davies, Lawrence Krauss, and The Science Network’s Roger Bingham discuss the origins of life, the possibility of finding life elsewhere, and the latest development in synthetic biology. More than 2500 people filled ASU Gammage Auditorium on Saturday, February 12 to listen to this remarkable collection of scientists whose particular perspectives range from the cosmic to the microscopic. “The Great Debate: What is Life?” was sponsored by the ASU Origins Project in partnership with the Science Network, J. Epstein Foundation and the NASA Astrobiology Institute. The evening followed on the heels of its successful inaugural debate in November 2010, “The Great Debate – Can science tell us right from wrong?”.

 

The Great Debate – What is Life?

The Great Debate - What is Life?

Panel discussion

February 12, 2011
Speakers: Richard Dawkins, J Craig Venter, Sydney Altman, Lee Hartwell, Paul Davies,Chris McKay, Lawrence Krauss, Roger Bingham
Run Time: 42 minutes

Richard Dawkins, J. Craig Venter, Nobel laureates Sidney Altman and Leland Hartwell, Chris McKay, Paul Davies, Lawrence Krauss, and The Science Network’s Roger Bingham discuss the origins of life, the possibility of finding life elsewhere, and the latest development in synthetic biology.

Richard Dawkins with an introduction by Roger Bingham

Richard Dawkins with an introduction by Roger Bingham

The Great Debate – What is Life?

February 12, 2011
Speakers: Richard Dawkins, Roger Bingham
Run Time: 10 minutes

Speaker: Richard Dawkins is a renowned evolutionary biologist and author. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and was the inaugural holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair of Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. His first book, The Selfish Gene, was an international bestseller and is now a classic work of modern evolutionary biology. His other books include The Blind Watchmaker, River Out of Eden, Climbing Mount Improbable, Unweaving the Rainbow, The Ancestor’s Tale, and The God Delusion.

Talk: Explains the key characteristic of life, which he intuitively believes to be universal to all possible life, i.e. the ability to not only replicate but to pass information about itself to the next generation.

Sidney Altman

Sidney Altman

The Great Debate – What is Life?

February 12, 2011
Speakers: Sidney Altman
Run Time: 14 minutes

Speaker: Sidney Altman is the Sterling Professor of Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology at Yale University and an Origins Project Distinguished Visiting Professor at Arizona State University. He won the 1989 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discoveries concerning the catalytic properties of RNA. His discoveries opened up new fields of scientific research and biotechnology and caused scientists to rethink old theories of how cells function. They also led to new hypotheses about the emergence of RNA on Earth and the possibility that RNA was the molecule that gave rise to the Earth’s first life forms.

Talk: Discusses the RNA-World hypothesis which is supposed to be the precursor to the DNA-World.

Lee Hartwell

Lee Hartwell

The Great Debate – What is Life?

February 12, 2011
Speakers: Lee Hartwell
Run Time: 08 minutes

Speaker: Lee Hartwell won the 2001 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine for discoveries related to the genetics of cell division. His discovery demonstrated the unity of all life and has significantly impacted cancer research. A former president of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Hartwell now directs the Center for Sustainable Health at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute and is Virginia G. Piper Chair of Personalized Medicine.

Talk: If we can’t define life, how we can look for it elsewhere in the universe? Lee says that other life forms may function differently (metabolism, reproduction etc.), may have non-carbon based chemistry and may not use water but still they will have certain inevitable characteristics like abundance of specific

Chris McKay

Chris McKay

The Great Debate – What is Life?

February 12, 2011
Speakers: Chris McKay
Run Time: 10 minutes

Speaker: Chris McKay is a planetary scientist with the Space Science Division of the NASA Ames Research Center and is one of the world’s leading experts on Titan. His broader interests focus on understanding the relationship between the chemical and physical evolution of the solar system and the origin of life. He has been actively involved in planning for future Mars missions including human settlements.

Talk: What are the places within our solar system we are currently exploring for life? These are the places where we have evidence of water (though life may evolve in other solvents also). Discusses ‘The Lego Principle’ i.e. life made up of small building blocks. Therefore, life generates a different distribution of molecule then what we get out of a Miller-Urey synthesis or meteorites.

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J. Craig Venter

J. Craig Venter

The Great Debate – What is Life?

February 12, 2011
Speakers: J. Craig Venter
Run Time: 11 minutes

Speaker: J. Craig Venter is the Founder, Chairman and President of the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) a not-for-profit research and support organization dedicated to human, microbial, plant and environmental genomic research, the exploration of social and ethical issues in genomics, and seeking alternative energy solutions through genomics. In May 2010 the J. Craig Venter Institute published results describing the successful construction of what has been described as the first self-replicating, synthetic bacterial cell. Dr. Venter is also Co-Founder, Chairman, CEO, and Co-Chief Scientific Officer of Synthetic Genomics Inc., a privately held company founded in 2005, is dedicated to developing and commercializing genomic-driven solutions to address global energy and environment challenges.

Talk: Discuss the great breakthrough by his team to replace DNA of a living cell with a synthetic one.

Paul Davies

Paul Davies

The Great Debate – What is Life?

February 12, 2011
Speakers: Paul Davies
Run Time: 12 minutes

Speaker: Paul Davies is College Professor in the Department of Physics and Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University. He helped create the theory of quantum fields in curved spacetime, and currently champions the theory that Earth may host a shadow biosphere of alternative life. His newest book is The Eerie Silence. He has won numerous awards including the 1995 Templeton Prize.

Talk: Discusses that all life on earth that we know belongs to the same tree of life. There could be life on earth which belongs to a different tree, may be living in some extreme environment or even overlapping with the microbial world but unexplored yet. Paul Davies claims that if there exists any life from a different tree, we would be able to find it within next 10 years.

Lawrence Krauss

Lawrence Krauss

The Great Debate – What is Life?

February 12, 2011
Speakers: Lawrence Krauss
Run Time: 11 minutes

Speaker:

Lawrence Krauss is Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and Director of the ASU Origins Project at Arizona State University. He is the only physicist to have received the highest awards from all 3 major US professional physics societies. His publications include The Physics of Star Trek, Quintessence, and Atom, and the newly released Quantum Man: Richard Feynman’s Life in Science.

Talk: Discusses the difficulty in defining life. Life replicates but even forest fires does that.