Como funciona a pesquisa científica

sábado, abril 26, 2014


Seamus O’Mahony

Are We all Scientific Experts Now? by Harry Collins, Polity Press, 140 pp, £9.99, ISBN: 978-0745682044

Harry Collins is a “sociologist of science”: he has studied scientists, just as Margaret Mead studied Samoans and Jane Goodall lived with chimpanzees. Here he chooses to study one particular type of scientist, namely gravitational-wave physicists. He likes them: “they’re my ideal kind of academic. They’re doing a slightly crazy, almost impossible project, and they’re doing it for purely academic reasons with no economic payoff.” Collins has spent many years examining the concept of scientific “expertise” and Are We All Scientific Experts Now?, a short book, is a readable distillation of his work in this field, and, ultimately, a passionate defence of science.

Collins refers to the period up to the 1960s, when scientists were regarded as infallible, remote and almost godlike, as “Wave 1”. “Wave 2” was the next twenty-five years or so, when critics (mainly from the humanities, and including Collins himself) began to question the exalted status of science. Laboratory Life: the Construction of Scientific Facts (1979) by Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar, showed that scientists were as flawed as anyone else: they swore, they made mistakes, they quarrelled. The critics of science argued that it, and its practitioners, should no longer be accorded an exalted status. Science was a social activity, carried out by imperfect individuals; its claim to ultimate truth was false. A variety of “scandals” – mad cow disease, “climategate”, the MMR vaccine debacle ‑ were seized on by the media to justify this fall from grace, this defrocking of a previously untouchable priestly caste. The arrival of the Internet only strengthened the growing suspicion that “ordinary” people could become empowered by having information; Collins calls this sense of empowerment “default expertise”. He deftly illustrates the paradox of public distrust of science and scientists during a period when science and technology has achieved so much: “We have seen Neil Armstrong stepping onto the Moon and we can watch satellite TV only because space rockets do work. Nowadays the journey to the airport is more dangerous than the plane ride. And the very Internet I use to get my anti-vaccination propaganda fix wouldn’t be there without the scientists. Hasn’t smallpox been eradicated and polio nearly so? Compare my teeth with my father’s and grandfather’s!”

Why then, does the public imagination focus so much on science’s perceived failures? “It is something to do with the world view,” writes Collins, “or spirit of the age – what we will call the ‘zeitgeist’.” He is unable to elaborate further: “no one, aside from advertising agencies, press magnates and fascist dictators, knows how the zeitgeist works. I certainly do not.” He does suggest, however, that his fellow academics may have something to do with it: “Whether or not it has been important, academics’ reflection and reinforcement of the spirit of the age has been revealing. Since the 1960s, certain academic groups have been effectively trying to turn us all into default experts by showing that there is nothing special about science. For some this has been inadvertent, while for others it has been an explicit project. The academics in question come from the social sciences or the humanities and they make a living from reflecting on, researching and writing about the natural sciences. Since around the middle of the twentieth century there has been a boom in this kind of work – it is known as ‘science studies’. I am one of its founders and long-term practitioners ...”

Thankfully, Collins is no postmodernist deconstructor of science. He actually admires scientists, and his prose is refreshingly free of academic jargon. He is one of the founding fathers of the new discipline of sociology of science, which, along with history of science and philosophy of science, forms what is known as “Science Studies”. Collins credits Thomas Kuhn, whose book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions was published in 1962, with kick-starting “Wave 2”: “Kuhn said that certain new ways of thinking had a revolutionary effect on the way scientists interacted with the world. Einstein’s idea of relativity is an example. Before relativity scientists thought of the world in a certain way: mass and energy were fixed and there was no limit on the speed at which things could travel. After relativity, mass and energy became interchangeable and, most remarkable of all, the speed of light became an absolute limit. Kuhn claimed this meant that for scientists, when the revolution took place, the way they acted – for example, how they did experiments and the conclusions they drew from them – changed too: for scientists, the very constituents of the world changed.”

Collins argues that Kuhn’s ideas were much more nuanced than is usually acknowledged: “Academics often engage in a kind of journalism – they pick up the headline, not the detail, when they make use of another’s work.” Kuhn’s book was used to support the argument that there was nothing special about science, a sentiment which horrified Kuhn himself. The essence of Kuhn’s argument is stated by Collins thus: “if the world changes in the course of a scientific revolution because of the way scientists think about it, then the world is no longer a fixed point. The world is no longer the anvil against which all theories can be hammered into shape. If the world changes when scientists think about it in a different way, then, not only what counts as true in science depends on where and when the scientists live: scientists who live in one place or time live in one world, while scientists who live in another place or time live in another world.”

In 1959, the novelist and chemist CP Snow gave a famous lecture at Cambridge, The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. Snow lamented the fact that academics in the humanities could cheerfully admit to ignorance about science – some even wearing such ignorance as a badge of honour – yet for a scientist to admit to ignorance of, say, Shakespeare, was a mark of philistinism. The phrase “the two cultures” struck a chord, and entered the language as a kind of shorthand to describe the disconnect between the two academic communities, humanities and science. Kuhn’s ideas – or a highly selective culling from his book – were gleefully taken up by humanities academics anxious to knock science off its perch: “science was not so different after all, so the arts and humanities had no need to feel inferior in the face of its success and nothing needed to change in respect of the status relationship between the two cultures”.

When the sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK) started out, the researchers generally worked hard to actually understand the science they were analysing. Then, inevitably, the easy option of the postmodernist critique looked so much more attractive. Why not use the tools of literary criticism and semiotics? After all, scientific papers were “literary products”. Science, they claimed, was “a continuation of politics by another means”, and there was no pressing requirement to become knowledgeable about the science. The postmodernist literary critique approach to SSK proved to be incredibly influential: “For those influenced by these academics – and the influence became stronger after the arts and humanities discovered the literary critique of science – the bar had fallen to the ground and we could all be scientific experts. I remember one meeting where an artist explained to me that the problems of gravitational-wave physics would be solved if only the research teams were expanded to include the arts.” Throughout the 1980s, this nonsense escalated: feminist humanities academics argued that science “was dominated by males and revealed that this showed through even into the actual substance of, say, reproductive technologies”.

I have witnessed a similar phenomenon in my own area of applied science, namely medicine. Medical schools failed to spot the seismic changes in the humanities and social sciences that began in the late 1960s; doctors and medical students were mystified by postmodernist claims that there was no objective truth, that all written documents – even scientific papers – were “narratives” informed by the cultural and economic milieu of the authors. They failed to recognize the anti-scientism of postmodernism’s high priests, such as Foucault and Derrida. Modern scientific medicine is essentially a product of the Enlightenment, and its astounding success in the twentieth century was proof enough for most doctors of the truth of Enlightenment ideals. Yet as with all astounding successes, a degree of arrogance crept in, and modern medicine began to be seen in some quarters as inhumane, mechanistic, arrogant, and self-serving.

In its early years, courses in “medical humanities” were generally taught by doctors who happened to have an interest in literature, history, and ethics, but career humanities academics from a variety of disciplines, such as English literature, history, philosophy, sociology, and anthropology, gradually began to take a keen interest. This new medical humanities has stepped into the void created by modern medicine’s failure of nerve. The contemporary study of medical humanities has grand ambitions: the promotion of social justice; the teaching of empathy; the encouragement of sensitivity to ethnic, gender, and cultural issues; and an end to the old patriarchalism. Medical humanities has its own journals, conferences and academic departments, and it has enthusiastically adopted the language of academic postmodernism. Here is a sentence from a recent article in the journal Medical Humanities entitled “Medical Humanities as Expressive of Western Culture”: “The act of asserting disciplinarity, even interdisciplinarity, derives momentum from a certain teleological impetus to self-narrate, producing a coherent or centralizing version of self-hood in relation to one’s envisaged audience”. This passage is reminiscent of the infamous 1996 Sokal hoax, when the eminent physicist Alan Sokal submitted a paper to the American journal Social Text entitled “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity”. The paper, a parody of postmodernist gobbledygook, was accepted and published.

Complementary/alternative medicine, according to this worldview, is simply a different narrative. A randomised trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine is no different from a poem: it is simply another narrative, and no narrative should be “privileged”. A 2006 article in the Journal of Evidence Based Healthcare, for example, labels evidence-based medicine as a “good example of microfascism at play in the contemporary scientific community” (Evidence-based medicine, by the way, is the scientific rock on which modern medicine stands.) This mode of thought has achieved a remarkable dominance, particularly in elite US universities.

In the early 1970s, Collins began to study how scientists – specifically, gravitational-wave physicists ‑ worked: “I had shown that scientists trying to build a new kind of laser – the TEA-laser – always failed unless they spent time in the company of a successful scientist; they had to pick up the knack of building it, a knack which neither party fully understood. This kind of invisible knack is known as ‘tacit knowledge’: it comprises the things we know but cannot say.” He studied disputes between two groups of gravitational-wave physicists: one group, using a gravitational wave detector reported a particular effect, while the opposing group believed that this was an epiphenomenon, due to incompetent construction of the wave detector. Collins observed that the dispute was eventually resolved using all manner of non-scientific considerations, such as “who has the best reputation as an experimenter or what the scientists’ pre-conceptions are in respect of whether the phenomenon should be observed or not. Instead of the scientific facts being hammered out on the anvil of reality, they are formed through the normal social processes by which we come to prefer a political party or a style of art.”

Collins looks at the issue of orthodoxy in science by examining physics. New publications in this discipline now tend to appear on an “electronic preprint server known as ‘arXiv’”, because traditional printed journals are too slow, the research already out of date by the time it appears. A number of physicists believe that they have been prevented from putting their work on this server because it does not fit with the prevailing orthodoxy in the field. These physicists have founded their own journals. I was slightly deflated to learn this, as I had always subscribed to Rutherford’s dictum that “physics is the only real science; all the rest are just stamp collecting”. Collins ruefully concludes: “Even in the hardest of sciences, one can find the equivalent of religious schisms.”

Collins has spent many years studying and writing about the concept of expertise; the middle section of this book is a scholarly analysis of different types of expertise. “Contributory expertise” is what most people imagine expertise to be. It is acquired by “working with other contributory experts and picking up their skills and techniques – their tacit knowledge of how to do things.” This type of expertise requires a period of apprenticeship, and the contributory expert is expected, particularly in the case of science, to make a contribution to his or her area of expertise. “Interactional expertise”, a relatively new concept, “is acquired by engaging in the spoken discourse of an expert community to the point of fluency but without participating in the practical activities or deliberately contributing to those activities”. To illustrate this concept, Collins uses himself as an example: he has studied gravitational-wave physicists for years, and is familiar with most of the concepts they discuss; he is thus an “interactional expert”; however, because he doesn’t actually do gravitational-wave physics, he is not a “contributory expert”. In fact, Collins is so good at talking about concepts in gravitational-wave physics, that his anonymised answers to a set of technical questions in this area could not be distinguished by a panel of gravitational-wave physicists from the responses of “contributory” experts in this field. This, Collins proudly informs us, was reported in Nature, the most prestigious of all science journals.


Definindo o DNA funcional: ponto para a turma do Design Inteligente!!!

quinta-feira, abril 24, 2014

Defining functional DNA elements in the human genome

Manolis Kellisa,b,1,2, Barbara Woldc,2, Michael P. Snyderd,2, Bradley E. Bernsteinb,e,f,2, Anshul Kundajea,b,3, Georgi K. Marinovc,3, Lucas D. Warda,b,3, Ewan Birneyg, Gregory E. Crawfordh, Job Dekkeri, Ian Dunhamg, Laura L. Elnitskij, Peggy J. Farnhamk, Elise A. Feingoldj, Mark Gersteinl, Morgan C. Giddingsm, David M. Gilbertn, Thomas R. Gingeraso, Eric D. Greenj, Roderic Guigop, Tim Hubbardq, Jim Kentr, Jason D. Liebs, Richard M. Myerst, Michael J. Pazinj, Bing Renu, John A. Stamatoyannopoulosv, Zhiping Wengi, Kevin P. Whitew, and Ross C. Hardisonx,1,2

Author Affiliations

Edited by Robert Haselkorn, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, and approved January 29, 2014 (received for review October 16, 2013)

AbstractAuthors & InfoSIMetricsPDFPDF + SI


With the completion of the human genome sequence, attention turned to identifying and annotating its functional DNA elements. As a complement to genetic and comparative genomics approaches, the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements Project was launched to contribute maps of RNA transcripts, transcriptional regulator binding sites, and chromatin states in many cell types. The resulting genome-wide data reveal sites of biochemical activity with high positional resolution and cell type specificity that facilitate studies of gene regulation and interpretation of noncoding variants associated with human disease. However, the biochemically active regions cover a much larger fraction of the genome than do evolutionarily conserved regions, raising the question of whether nonconserved but biochemically active regions are truly functional. Here, we review the strengths and limitations of biochemical, evolutionary, and genetic approaches for defining functional DNA segments, potential sources for the observed differences in estimated genomic coverage, and the biological implications of these discrepancies. We also analyze the relationship between signal intensity, genomic coverage, and evolutionary conservation. Our results reinforce the principle that each approach provides complementary information and that we need to use combinations of all three to elucidate genome function in human biology and disease.


1To whom correspondence may be addressed. E-mail: or

2M.K., B.W., M.P.S., B.E.B., and R.C.H. contributed equally to this work.

3A.K., G.K.M., and L.D.W. contributed equally to this work.

Author contributions: M.K., B.W., M.P.S., B.E.B., and R.C.H. designed research; M.K., B.W., M.P.S., B.E.B., A.K., G.K.M., L.D.W., and R.C.H. performed research; A.K., G.K.M., and L.D.W. contributed computational analysis and tools; M.K., B.W., M.P.S., B.E.B., E.B., G.E.C., J.D., I.D., L.L.E., P.J.F., E.A.F., M.G., M.C.G., D.M.G., T.R.G., E.D.G., R.G., T.H., J.K., J.D.L., R.M.M., M.J.P., B.R., J.A.S., Z.W., K.P.W., and R.C.H. contributed to manuscript discussions and ideas; and M.K., B.W., M.P.S., B.E.B., and R.C.H. wrote the paper.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.

Data deposition: In addition to data already released via the ENCODE Data Coordinating Center, the erythroblast DNase-seq data reported in this paper have been deposited in the Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) database, (accession nos. GSE55579, GSM1339559, and GSM1339560).

Authored by members of the ENCODE Consortium.

Freely available online through the PNAS open access option.



Vocês se lembram que os evolucionistas ardentes defensores do paradigma neodarwinista diziam que o DNA humano era mais DNA lixo do que funcional? Pois é, a turma do Design Inteligente dizia que o DNA era funcional. Quem é então que impede o avanço da ciência cara-pálida? Quem é o pseudo-cientista agora? Quem é que não sabe o que é ciência e nem fazer ciência? Quem? Os darwinistas!!!

Fui, rachando de rir da cara de alguns amigos na Nomenklatura científica que disseram que eu tinha embarcado na canoa furada do Design Inteligente. Respondi que tinha deixado de lado o pangaré de Darwin e estava apostando todas as minhas fichas no cavalo do Design Inteligente. E a Galera dos meninos e meninas de Darwin? Coitada, cada vez mais sem pai nem mãe epistemológicos! 

Professores do ensino médio são culpados em não ensinar corretamente sobre o fato, Fato, FATO da evolução!!!

Teachers teaching misconceptions: a study of factors contributing to high school biology students’ acquisition of biological evolution-related misconceptions

Tony B Yates1 and Edmund A Marek2 

(1)Oklahoma Baptist University, James E. Hurley College of Science and Mathematics, 500 West University, OBU Box 61722, Shawnee, OK 74804, USA

(2)Department of Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum, University of Oklahoma, 114 Ellsworth Collings Hall, Norman, OK 73019-0260, USA

Tony B Yates (Corresponding author)


Edmund A Marek


Received: 19 June 2013

Accepted: 11 February 2014

Published online: 28 March 2014



Research has revealed that high school students matriculate to college holding misconceptions related to biological evolution. These misconceptions interfere with students’ abilities to grasp accurate scientific explanations and serve as fundamental barriers to understanding evolution. Because the scientific community regards evolution as a vital part of science education, it is imperative that students’ misconceptions are identified and their sources revealed. The purpose of this study was to identify the types and prevalence of biological evolution-related misconceptions held by high school biology teachers and their students, and to identify those factors that contribute to student acquisition of such misconceptions, with particular emphasis given to the role of the teacher.


Thirty-five teachers who taught at least one section of Biology I during the 2010 to 2011 academic year in one of 32 Oklahoma public high schools and their respective 536 students served as this study’s unit of analysis. The Biological Evolution Literacy Survey, which possesses 23 biological evolution misconception statements grouped into five categories, served as the research tool for identifying teachers’ misconceptions prior to student instruction and students’ misconceptions both prior to and following instruction in biological evolution concepts, calculating conception index scores, and collecting demographic data. Multiple statistical analyses were performed to identify statistically significant (p < .05) relationships between variables related to student’s acquisition of biological evolution-related misconceptions.


Analyses revealed that students typically exit the Biology I classroom more confident in their biological evolution knowledge but holding greater numbers of misconceptions than they initially possessed upon entering the course. Significant relationships between student acquisition of misconceptions and teachers’ bachelor’s degree field, terminal degree, and hours dedicated to evolution instruction were also revealed. In addition, the probabilities that specific biological evolution-related misconceptions were being transmitted from teachers to their students were also identified.


This study reveals some problematic issues concerning the teaching of biological evolution in Oklahoma’s public high school introductory biology course. No doubt, multiple factors contribute in varying degrees to the acquisition and retention of student misconceptions of biological evolution. However, based on this study’s results, there is little doubt that teachers may serve as sources of biological evolution-related misconceptions or, at the very least, propagators of existing misconceptions. It is imperative that we as educators identify sources of student biological evolution-related misconceptions, identify or develop strategies to reduce or eliminate such misconceptions, and implement these strategies at the appropriate junctures in students’ cognitive development.

Keywords Biology education Biology teachers Evolution education Misconception Oklahoma Public high school Students

A obliteração da mente acadêmica no mundo!

terça-feira, abril 22, 2014

The Closing of the Academic Mind

APRIL 21, 2014

Harvard student Sandra Y.L. Korn recently proposed in The Harvard Crimson that academics should be stopped if their research is deemed oppressive. Arguing that “academic justice” should replace “academic freedom,” she writes: “If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of ‘academic freedom’?”

In other words, Korn would have the university cease to be a forum for open debate and free inquiry in the name of justice, as defined by mainstream liberal academia.

Unfortunately, this is already a reality in most universities across America, where academics and university administrators alike are trying, often successfully, to discredit and prohibit certain ideas and ways of thinking. Particularly in the humanities, many ideas are no longer considered legitimate, and debate over them is de facto non-existent. In order to delegitimize researchers who are out of line, academics brand them with one of several terms that have emerged from social science theory.

The first term, “hegemonic,” is frequently used in history courses, literary criticism, and gender studies. Hegemony, of course, is a legitimate word that is often useful in describing consistency and uniformity. However, most people outside academia are unaware that being called ‘hegemonic’ is the insult du jour. It strongly implies that you are close-minded and perhaps even bigoted. This term may be applied to offences ranging from referencing the habits or dress of a cultural group to discussing the views held by a religion (and daring to question them—so long as the religion in question is not Christianity).

To do these things is to “essentialize” those people by speaking about them broadly and being so bold as to imply that they may share a practice or belief in a general sense. It is the insult of those who would have every department in academia broken down into sub-departments ad infinitum in order to avoid saying anything general about anything, resulting in verbal and intellectual paralysis.

This strategy of labeling has been particularly successful in its application to middle-eastern and Islamic studies. Any author, or student, who does not join in the liberal narrative about Islamic culture—which includes unwavering support for Palestinians, the absolute equality of men and women in Islam, and an insistence on the peaceful nature of the religion despite any violent tendencies in its foundation— will find themselves labeled an “orientalist.”




Essa obliteração da mente acadêmica já está instalada, especialmente, nas universidades públicas, onde o DISCURSO ÚNICO, a SÍNDROME DOS SOLDADINHOS DE CHUMBO, onde todo mundo pensa igual e ninguém está pensando em mais nada, é corriqueiro. Não existe liberdade acadêmica nas universidades públicas brasileiras de se discutir a obsolência e a falência de paradigmas científicos sobre a origem e evolução do universo e da vida. Em que pese a montanha de evidências contrárias encontradas na literatura científica.

Chamam isso de CIÊNCIA, eu chamo de IDEOLOGIA!!!  

Crianças serão doutrinadas sobre o fato, Fato, FATO da evolução através da intervenção dos professores: Educação ou Doutrinação?

Young Children Can Be Taught Basic Natural Selection Using a Picture-Storybook Intervention

Deborah Kelemen1

Natalie A. Emmons1

Rebecca Seston Schillaci1

Patricia A. Ganea2

1Department of Psychology, Boston University

2Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

Deborah Kelemen, Boston University, Department of Psychology, 64 Cummington Mall, Boston, MA 02215 E-mail:

Natalie A. Emmons, Boston University, Department of Psychology, 64 Cummington Mall, Boston, MA 02215 E-mail:

Author Contributions D. Kelemen and P. A. Ganea developed the initial concept. D. Kelemen, R. Seston Schillaci, and P. A. Ganea contributed to the design of Experiment 1. R. Seston Schillaci performed data collection for that experiment, and R. Seston Schillaci, D. Kelemen, and N. A. Emmons conducted the analyses. N. A. Emmons, D. Kelemen, and R. Seston Schillaci contributed to the concept and design of Experiment 2. N. A. Emmons performed data collection for that experiment, and N. A. Emmons and R. Seston Schillaci conducted the analyses. D. Kelemen, N. A. Emmons, and R. Seston Schillaci drafted the manuscript, and P. A. Ganea provided revisions. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.

Next Section


Adaptation by natural selection is a core mechanism of evolution. It is also one of the most widely misunderstood scientific processes. Misconceptions are rooted in cognitive biases found in preschoolers, yet concerns about complexity mean that adaptation by natural selection is generally not comprehensively taught until adolescence. This is long after untutored theoretical misunderstandings are likely to have become entrenched. In a novel approach, we explored 5- to 8-year-olds’ capacities to learn a basic but theoretically coherent mechanistic explanation of adaptation through a custom storybook intervention. Experiment 1 showed that children understood the population-based logic of natural selection and also generalized it. Furthermore, learning endured 3 months later. Experiment 2 replicated these results and showed that children understood and applied an even more nuanced mechanistic causal explanation. The findings demonstrate that, contrary to conventional educational wisdom, basic natural selection is teachable in early childhood. Theory-driven interventions using picture storybooks with rich explanatory structure are beneficial.

evolution natural selection learning children childhood development science education cognition


A falência epistemológica do Darwinismo é tão fragorosa, tão patente na literatura especializada, especialmente a incapacidade evolucionária da seleção natural, que esta pedagogia desenvolvida para alcançar e conquistar corações e mentes de crianças nos remete às escolas dos lenços vermelhos em que as crianças eram ensinadas os DOGMAS MARXISTAS!!!

O nome disso não é EDUCAÇÃO, o nome disso é DOUTRINAÇÃO!!! Brevemente será copiado nas diretrizes educacionais do MEC sem nenhuma contraposição pedagógica!

Uma explicação necrobiológica para o Paradoxo de Fermi: zumbis nos multiversos...

quinta-feira, abril 10, 2014

A Necro-Biological Explanation for the Fermi Paradox

Stephen R. Kane, Franck Zelziz

(Submitted on 31 Mar 2014)

As we learn more about the frequency and size distribution of exoplanets, we are discovering that terrestrial planets are exceedingly common. The distribution of orbital periods in turn results in many of these planets being the occupants of the Habitable Zone of their host stars. Here we show that a conclusion of prevalent life in the universe presents a serious danger due to the risk of spreading Spontaneous Necro-Animation Psychosis (SNAP), or Zombie-ism. We quantify the extent of the danger posed to Earth through the use of the Zombie Drake Equation and show how this serves as a possible explanation for the Fermi Paradox. We demonstrate how to identify the resulting necro-signatures present in the atmospheres where a zombie apocalypse may have occurred so that the risk may be quantified. We further argue that it is a matter of planetary defense and security that we carefully monitor and catalog potential SNAP-contaminated planets in order to exclude contact with these worlds in a future space-faring era.

Comments: 4 pages, 3 figures, submitted to the Cosmological Journal

Subjects: Popular Physics (physics.pop-ph)

Cite as: arXiv:1403.8146 [physics.pop-ph]

(or arXiv:1403.8146v1 [physics.pop-ph] for this version)

Submission history

From: Stephen Kane [view email] 

[v1] Mon, 31 Mar 2014 19:47:01 GMT (531kb)




Zumbis nos multiversos??? Chamam isso de ciência. Pobre ciência!!!

A confusão e a incerteza sobre a evolução humana perdura há 50 anos...

segunda-feira, abril 07, 2014

Human evolution: Fifty years after Homo habilis

Bernard Wood

02 April 2014

Bernard Wood explains why the announcement of 'handy man' in April 1964 threw the field of hominin evolution into a turmoil that continues to this day.

Natural History Museum/Mary Evans Picture Library
The foot of 'handy man', Homo habilis.

Half a century ago, the British–Kenyan palaeoanthropologist Louis Leakey and his colleagues made a controversial proposal: a collection of fossils from the Great Rift Valley in Tanzania belonged to a new species within our own genus1. The announcement of Homo habilis was a turning point in palaeoanthropology. It shifted the search for the first humans from Asia to Africa and began a controversy that endures to this day. Even with all the fossil evidence and analytical techniques from the past 50 years, a convincing hypothesis for the origin of Homo remains elusive.

In 1960, the twig of the tree of life that contains hominins — modern humans, their ancestors, and other forms more closely related to humans than to chimpanzees and bonobos — looked remarkably straightforward. At its base was Australopithecus, the apeman that palaeoanthropologists had been recovering in southern Africa since the 1920s. This, the thinking went, was replaced by the taller, larger-brained Homo erectus from Asia, which spread to Europe and evolved into Neanderthals, which evolved into Homo sapiens. But what lay between the australopiths and H. erectus, the first known human?

Betting on Africa

Until the 1960s, H. erectus had been found only in Asia. But when primitive stone-chopping tools were uncovered at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, Leakey became convinced that this is where he would find the earliest stone-tool makers, who he assumed would belong to our genus. Maybe, like the australopiths, our human ancestors also originated in Africa.

In 1931, Leakey began intensive prospecting and excavation at Olduvai Gorge, 33 years before he announced the new human species. Now tourists travel to Olduvai on paved roads in air-conditioned buses; in the 1930s in the rainy season, the journey from Nairobi could take weeks. The ravines at Olduvai offered unparalleled access to ancient strata, but fieldwork was no picnic in the park. Water was often scarce. Leakey and his team had to learn to share Olduvai with all of the wild animals that lived there, lions included.

They found the first trace of the potential toolmaker, two hominin teeth, in 1955. But these were milk teeth, which are not as easy to link to taxa as permanent teeth. The team's persistence was rewarded in 1959, when archaeologist Mary Leakey, Louis's wife, recovered the cranium of a young adult. The specimen still boggles the mind because it is so strange: its small brain, large face, tiny canines and massive, thumbnail-sized chewing teeth were not at all like those of H. erectus. Its big molars earned it the nickname 'Nutcracker Man'.

Because Nutcracker Man was found in the same layers as the stone tools, the Leakeys assumed that it was the toolmaker, despite its odd appearance. But when Louis announced the discovery, he was not tempted to expand the definition of Homo. That would have eliminated any meaningful distinction between humans and australopiths. Instead he erected a new genus and species, Zinjanthropus boisei (now called Paranthropus boisei), to accommodate it (see 'Who was related to whom?').

Australopithecus: Sabena Jane Blackbird/Alamy; H. habilis: Human Origins Program/Smithsonian Institution; P. boisei: Natural History Museum/SPL; H. neanderthalensis: Javier Trueba/MSF/SPL



A Nomenklatura científica permite e incentiva mentir a favor do paradigma

Information Manipulation and Climate Agreements

Fuhai Hong⇑ and Xiaojian Zhao

- Author Affiliations

Fuhai Hong is an assistant professor in the Division of Economics, Nanyang Technological University. Xiaojian Zhao is an assistant professor in the Department of Economics, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Correspondence may be sent to:

The authors thank Larry Karp, Madhu Khanna, Jinhua Zhao, two anonymous referees, and participants in the Conference on Global Environmental Challenges: the Role of China for their helpful comments.


It appears that news media and some pro-environmental organizations have the tendency to accentuate or even exaggerate the damage caused by climate change. This article provides a rationale for this tendency by using a modified International Environmental Agreement (IEA) model with asymmetric information. We find that the information manipulation has an instrumental value, as it ex post induces more countries to participate in an IEA, which will eventually enhance global welfare. From the ex ante perspective, however, the impact that manipulating information has on the level of participation in an IEA and on welfare is ambiguous.

Key words

Asymmetric information climate change information transmission international environmental agreements



This article offers a rationale for the phenomenon of climate damage accentuation or exaggeration on the part of the international mainstream media or other pro-environmental organizations. Forming a binding IEA to curb climate change is a matter of urgency (see, e.g., Beccherle and Tirole 2011). The IEA literature generally takes the pessimistic view that an IEA has little chance of success in resolving the climate problem because strong free-riding incentives prevent a sufficient number of countries from participating in that agreement. Using a modified IEA model with two states and asymmetric information, we show that the aforementioned exaggeration of climate damage may alleviate the problem of insufficient IEA participation. When the media or pro-environmental organizations have private information on the damage caused by climate change, in equilibrium they may manipulate this information to increase pessimism regarding climate damage, even though the damage may not be that great. Consequently, more countries (with overpessimistic beliefs about climate damage) will be induced to participate in an IEA in this state, thereby leading to greater global welfare expost. In essence, overpessimism mitigates the problem of underparticipation that is caused by free-riding incentives. However, because people update their beliefs using the Bayesian rule, such information manipulation has a negative externality on the other state when climate damage is really huge, in which case the aforementioned information provider will not be sufficiently trusted even if it indicates the true state. As a result, the participation level falls further in this situation. Overall, information manipulation has an ambiguous effect on IEA membership and global welfare from the ex ante perspective.


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The American Journal of Agricultural Economics



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