Papers on Homo floresiensis

Out of curiosity, I looked up the research papers on Homo floresiensis.

There are more but that’s where I ran out of time and energy.

Chiropractors sue Simon Singh over unpalatable truth

simon-singhSimon Singh, a British science writer, is being persecuted by the British Chiropractors’ Association. They are suing him for libel because he spoke out about the evidence that chiropractic treatment doesn’t do much good.

And we know that it has caused strokes and killed and crippled people.

Their response? Sue!

The article is no longer on the Guardian web site but is being mirrored on a Russian site.

But the best part is that Simon is not defending himself by saying that his words were his own opinion and thus “fair comment.” Instead, he’s going to argue that he was materially correct. In doing so, he is challenging the BCA to prove that chiropractic is an effective medical treatment. This should be fun. We might even end up with a legal decision that chiropractic is not evidence-based medicine.

You can read the offending article here: “Beware the Spinal Trap” by Simon Singh. And just so it doesn’t get lost, I’m pasting it here as well.

Beware the spinal trap

This is Chiropractic Awareness Week. So let’s be aware. How about some awareness that may prevent harm and help you make truly informed choices? First, you might be surprised to know that the founder of chiropractic therapy, Daniel David Palmer, wrote that, “99% of all diseases are caused by displaced vertebrae”. In the 1860s, Palmer began to develop his theory that the spine was involved in almost every illness because the spinal cord connects the brain to the rest of the body. Therefore any misalignment could cause a problem in distant parts of the body.

In fact, Palmer’s first chiropractic intervention supposedly cured a man who had been profoundly deaf for 17 years. His second treatment was equally strange, because he claimed that he treated a patient with heart trouble by correcting a displaced vertebra.

You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact they still possess some quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything. And even the more moderate chiropractors have ideas above their station. The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.

I can confidently label these treatments as bogus because I have co-authored a book about alternative medicine with the world’s first professor of complementary medicine, Edzard Ernst. He learned chiropractic techniques himself and used them as a doctor. This is when he began to see the need for some critical evaluation. Among other projects, he examined the evidence from 70 trials exploring the benefits of chiropractic therapy in conditions unrelated to the back. He found no evidence to suggest that chiropractors could treat any such conditions.

But what about chiropractic in the context of treating back problems? Manipulating the spine can cure some problems, but results are mixed. To be fair, conventional approaches, such as physiotherapy, also struggle to treat back problems with any consistency. Nevertheless, conventional therapy is still preferable because of the serious dangers associated with chiropractic.

In 2001, a systematic review of five studies revealed that roughly half of all chiropractic patients experience temporary adverse effects, such as pain, numbness, stiffness, dizziness and headaches. These are relatively minor effects, but the frequency is very high, and this has to be weighed against the limited benefit offered by chiropractors.

More worryingly, the hallmark technique of the chiropractor, known as high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust, carries much more significant risks. This involves pushing joints beyond their natural range of motion by applying a short, sharp force. Although this is a safe procedure for most patients, others can suffer dislocations and fractures.

Worse still, manipulation of the neck can damage the vertebral arteries, which supply blood to the brain. So-called vertebral dissection can ultimately cut off the blood supply, which in turn can lead to a stroke and even death. Because there is usually a delay between the vertebral dissection and the blockage of blood to the brain, the link between chiropractic and strokes went unnoticed for many years. Recently, however, it has been possible to identify cases where spinal manipulation has certainly been the cause of vertebral dissection.

Laurie Mathiason was a 20-year-old Canadian waitress who visited a chiropractor 21 times between 1997 and 1998 to relieve her low-back pain. On her penultimate visit she complained of stiffness in her neck. That evening she began dropping plates at the restaurant, so she returned to the chiropractor. As the chiropractor manipulated her neck, Mathiason began to cry, her eyes started to roll, she foamed at the mouth and her body began to convulse. She was rushed to hospital, slipped into a coma and died three days later. At the inquest, the coroner declared: “Laurie died of a ruptured vertebral artery, which occurred in association with a chiropractic manipulation of the neck.”

This case is not unique. In Canada alone there have been several other women who have died after receiving chiropractic therapy, and Professor Ernst has identified about 700 cases of serious complications among the medical literature. This should be a major concern for health officials, particularly as under-reporting will mean that the actual number of cases is much higher.

Bearing all of this in mind, I will leave you with one message for Chiropractic Awareness Week – if spinal manipulation were a drug with such serious adverse effects and so little demonstrable benefit, then it would almost certainly have been taken off the market.

· Simon Singh is the co-author of Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial

Common ancestor of frogs & salamanders

amphibian, 280 million years ago, Gerobatrachus hottoniResearchers have examined a well-preserved amphibian fossil and found that it fills the gap between frogs and salamanders. Gerobatrachus hottoni, “Hotton’s old frog,” has a mosaic of features such as a salamander’s walk and a tail but a wide, froggy head. It comes from a time, 280 million years ago, before frogs and salamanders became separate branches on the tree of life.

their research, published in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature, settles a long and hot debate in scientific circles as to just how these species evolved.

“This fossil is the most like the modern amphibian that you find and it’s from incredibly ancient times,” said principal investigator Jason Anderson, an assistant professor of veterinary anatomy at the University of Calgary who specializes in vertebrate paleontology.

“So what this does is provide conclusive evidence that frogs and salamanders have an origin among one particular group of extinct fossil amphibians,” he said Wednesday from Calgary. “This fossil falls right into a gap in the fossil record between one archaic group of amphibians and the earliest examples of the modern amphibians, frogs and salamanders.”

The fossilized remains were discovered in 1995 in the scrub land of north-central Texas by the late Nicholas Hotton of the Smithsonian Institution, the man for whom the long-extinct creature is named.

Hotton, who died two years later, knew he had made a significant find, said Anderson.

“With a slip of paper found with the specimen and in his handwriting is the nickname ‘Froggie.’ So he recognized the specimen for what it was immediately after he found it.”

The slab of silt stone bearing the 12-centimetre-long creature’s imprint had languished in the Smithsonian’s collection for some time before a U.S. colleague brought it to Anderson’s attention; he jumped at the chance to create a team to partially raise it from its rocky grave.

Co-author Robert Reisz, a professor of biology who heads a vertebrate paleontology research lab at the University of Toronto, came on board to lay bare the creature’s skeleton, delicately chipping away at the chalk-like rock in which it was embedded.

It has small teeth, a reduced number of vertebrae, salamander ankle bones, a frog’s ear, and a lightly built skeleton.

The first frog fossils date from about fifty million years later.


Complete specimen in ventral view, photograph (left) and interpretive outline drawing (right). Abbreviations: bc, basale commune; cl, cleithrum; cv, clavicle; dm, digital elements of the manus; dt3, distal tarsal 3; fe, femur; h, humerus; ic, intercentrum; il, ilium; is, ischium; op, olecranon process of ulna; pc, pleurocentrum; r, radius; sr, sacral rib. [Diagram from Pharyngula]

Rhetorical tactics: the Behe Blunder

Wesley R. Elsberry of Austringer makes some very good points about the ways in which creationists and IDists avoid actually respond to real-world evidence. I expanded on one of his ways, which I’ve named the Dembski Dodge.

However, Wesley omits the Behe Blunder: get the science wrong and use that as a basis for argument. In perhaps his worst stumble, Behe declares that the evolution of the eukaryotic cilium or flagellum is irreducibly complex and that those structures are assembled by an irreducibly complex multi-protein system known as intraflagellar transport, which he touts as irreducible complexity squared! But Behe gets it wrong.

As Nick Matzke points out,

Nick MatzkeThe huge problem with Behe’s invocation of intraflagellar transport in his “IRREDUCIBLE COMPLEXITY SQUARED” section of chapter 5 is that he is completely wrong when he says that intraflagellar transport is universally required for cilium construction! Anyone can see this by reading this 2004 paper by Briggs et al. in Current Biology, which they cleverly entitled “More than one way to build a flagellum,” presumably so that people would find out that there is…wait for it…more than one way to build a flagellum….

One of the parasitic apicomplexans completely lacks the IFT genes…yet makes a cilium anyway! … Behe would have known all this if he had only carefully read the Jekely and Arendt (2006) cilium evolution paper that he dismissed with a hand wave…. it really doesn’t help the “irreducible complexity” argument much if Behe’s favorite system, the eukaryotic cilium, and the extra-favorite “irreducible complexity squared” system, intraflagellar transport, on which he bases a whole chapter, is in fact entirely reducible…. A great deal of creationism/ID boils down to sloppy claims made on insufficient information, plus wishful thinking that blocks the impulse to double-check one’s claims…

Which apicomplexan critter is it that builds cilia despite Behe’s declaration that “a functioning cilium requires a working IFT”? Why, it’s Plasmodium falciparum, aka malaria, aka Behe’s own biggest running example used throughout The Edge of Evolution.

Nick Matzke’s entire article, “Of cilia and silliness,” is well worth reading.

LOL Michael Behe:

–from Lou FCD

To read more about Behe’s blunders, read these:

Shake-up at base of the tree of life

New research analysing huge amounts of data suggests that the comb jelly split off from sponges before other multicellular organsisms and went on to develop a nervous system independently of other animals.

Red Line comb jelly
(Image from University of California Museum of Paleontology)

You can read about it at Science Daily:

This finding challenges the traditional view of the base of the tree of life, which honored the lowly sponge as the earliest diverging animal. “This was a complete shocker,” says Dunn [no first name given]. “So shocking that we initially thought something had gone very wrong.”

But even after Dunn’s team checked and rechecked their results and added more data to their study, their results still suggested that the comb jelly, which has tissues and a nervous system, split off from other animals before the tissueless, nerveless sponge.

The presence of the relatively complex comb jelly at the base of the tree of life suggests that the first animal was probably more complex than previously believed, says Dunn.

While cautioning that additional studies should be conducted to corroborate his team’s findings, Dunn says that the comb jelly could only have achieved its apparent seniority over the simpler sponge via one of two new evolutionary scenarios:

  1. the comb jelly evolved its complexity independently of other animals, after it branched off onto its own evolutionary path; or
  2. the sponge evolved its simple form from more complex creatures — a possibility that underscores the fact that “evolution is not necessarily just a march towards increased complexity,” says Dunn. “This scenario would provide a particularly dramatic example of that principle.”

For earlier research on the origin of the nervous system, see “Nervous system originated in sponges.”

Florida adopts Kansas periodic table

In a surprise move today, Florida’s state education committee adopted a new standard for chemistry science classes. “Why should biology get all the attention? We have to have balanced educational standards in chemistry as well,” said committee member Denise O’Liarty-Ratsarse. The periodic table is only a theory. Those Medeleevists are trying to suppress scientific debate. We want to see a fair treatment of all theories. Besides, the Bible doesn’t mention hydrogen, so how do we know it even exists?”

Periodic table only a theory

Church disclaimers

Local council in shock challenge to Catholic dogma

… Beginning with tonight’s evening masses, priests will be legally obliged to read out the disclaimer – the exact wording of which has been provided by the council – which reads as follows:

“Congregants should be aware of the gaps or problems in the Catholic theory of transubstantiation, including, but not limited to, the Protestant notion that the bread and wine are merely symbolic, the opinions of other religions on the life of Christ, and the lack of conclusive scientific evidence available to support this theory.”

Explaining the borough’s decision, Councilor Burt Blaydon (Con., Windynook), said: “The council feel it is important that borough residents realise that the Catholic version of Christianity is only a theory and not written in stone. This is not an attempt to cause offence, but equally we shouldn’t offend those members of the congregation who hold alternative views on the nature of bread and wine.”

—Posted by Paul Sims (hat tip to Pharyngula)

And don’t forget the warning sticker:

warning sticker

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