SOURCE: PZ Myers (Pharyngula)

Dividing cells follow a cycle.

  • Most cells are in G1 (Gap 1), doing what cells do.
  • Then under control of clock-like changes in specific genes, they can enter the S (synthesis) phase, when their DNA is replicated,
  • followed by a G2 phase (gap 2),
  • and then an actively dividing mitotic or M phase.

Each of these phases has a checkpoint where a battery of proteins survey the state of the cell and either permit the process to proceed, or block it if there are problems.

In extreme cases, the checkpoint proteins can determine that the cell is so irreparably damaged that the only option is suicide, and the cell will self destruct.

This is the process that cancer needs to disrupt if it is to continue; cancer cells typically have damaged DNA or aberrant signals flying everywhere that ought to be triggering all kinds of alarms in the checkpoint system, and either stopping cell division immediately, or activating repair mechanisms that fix the damage, or just killing the corrupted cell immediately.

One of the most critical points in this cycle is called the R or Restriction point.

  • Prior to the R point, the cell is sensitive to external signals that can induce cell division;
  • after this point, the cell no longer pays attention to those signals, because it is on a rigidly programmed track towards completing cell division.

The R point is that last fateful moment of decision before the cell commits to dividing.

Standing at this point is an essential guardian of the cell cycle, pRb. This protein is an inhibitor of cell division, acting as a tumor suppressor gene. It’s the guard at the gate, and it must be satisfied that all is well in the cell before it will allow division to continue.

pRb’s default mode is to stop cell division, but it receives signals from a wide array of pathways that can tell it to stand down and let the process continue.

Control of this gene is complicated because it is so essential to well-regulated cell division: look at it here, standing sentry just above the yellow R point, with all these other pathways talking to it.

I think you can see how this gene can contribute to cancer when it’s defective. Shoot the guard, open the gate wide, and allow cell divisions to proceed unchecked.

This passage is a part of PZ Myers’ much longer critique of an article on the evolution of cancer by two physicists, Paul Davies and Charles Lineweaver, ‘Cancer tumors as Metazoa 1.0: tapping genes of ancient ancestors” (Phys. Biol. 8 015001-015008).

Why Women Avoid the Atheist Movement (It's Not Our Feeble Lady Brains or Hormones)

Why Women Avoid the Atheist Movement (It’s Not Our Feeble Lady Brains or Hormones)

If you poke around most atheist communities on the Internet or take a look at the attendees at atheism conventions, you’ll probably notice that the crowd is overwhelmingly male. Is this because, as some of the biggest names in the movement have suggested, women don’t have the intellectual curiosity or logical capability to arrive at the conclusion that there is no God? (Spoiler alert: NO.) Or is…

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Why ‘Feminism’ is poisoning Atheism

I don’t normally use my blog to promote other people’s videos, but this is an important one. 

Here’s an easy indicator. If it’s a paper that presumes to tell you the evolutionary basis of differences between the sexes or races, it’s bullshit. That means the author is going to trot out some prejudice about how sexes or races differ before building some feeble case from a collection of poorly designed surveys or sloppily analyzed statistics to make up a story. Unsurprisingly, those differences always fit some bigoted preconception, and always have, from Galton’s determination of the ‘objective’ degrees of feminine beauty between races to Kanazawa’s, ummm, determination of the ‘objective’ degrees of feminine beauty between races. There really hasn’t been a lot of creativity in this subfield.

-PZ Myers on determining whether a piece of evolutionary psychology is bullhsit or not. Also some mocking at a pick-up artist/MRA douchebag.

MOAR: http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/11/23/belief-in-evolutionary-psychology-may-be-hardwired-study-says/ 


As the darkness descends, there will be no gods or angels rising to judge you. You’ll be alone, no matter how crowded the room, and the only judge you’ll face is yourself. There will be no authority looking over your shoulder and telling you whether your life was worthy or wasted, and if there were, its opinion would be irrelevant — all that will matter is that you can look back and find happiness and accomplishment. We live our lives for our life’s sake, rather than for illusions about rewards and satisfaction after we’re dead.

PZ Myers on his near-death experience, here

I’d recommend reading the whole post — it’s really quite touching.

FAITH. No one word personifies the absolute worst and most wicked properties of religion better than that. Faith is mind-rot. It’s the poison that destroys critical thinking, undermines evidence, and leads people into lives dedicated to absurdity. It’s a parasite regarded as a virtue. I speak as a representative of the scientific faction of atheism: it’s one thing we simply cannot compromise on. Faith is wrong.
—  PZ Myers

The very early, gastrula-phase of a brachiopod - which turns out to behave like a tiny, ultra-simple eye.

The figure above is of a very early stage in development, when the organism is little more than a couple of sheets of cells with no organs at all, only tisses in the process of forming up into rough structures. It definitely has no brain, no nervous tissue at all, and no eyes…and there it is, that dark blue smear is a region selectively expressing ciliary opsin as if it were a retina. Furthermore, when tested behaviorally (mind blown again…behavior, in a gastrula), populations in a light box show a statistical tendency to drift into the light. Presumably, light stimulation of the opsin is coupled to the activity of cilia used for motility in the outer epithelium of the embryo.

Amazing. It suggests how eyes evolved in multicellular organisms, as well — initially, it was just localized general expression of light-sensitive molecules coupled directly to motors in the skin, no brain required.

“Many of the religious apologists out there are not stupid people, they are often brilliant. People working in the field of theology and philosophy smart people everywhere. What they are those religious apologists are smart poeple who can build these amazingly intricate rationalizations for whatever weird practice they favor. Whether it’s ritual cannibalism, or praying to spirits, or treating women as chattel. And they always building this on terrible shaky foundation of false premises.”
―PZ Myers

On his popular science blog, Pharyngula, PZ Myers has entertained millions of readers with his infectious love of evolutionary science and his equally infectious disdain for creationism, biblical literalism, intelligent design theory, and other products of godly illogic. This funny and fearless book collects and expands on some of his most popular writings, giving the religious fanaticism of our times the gleeful disrespect it deserves by skewering the apocalyptic fantasies, magical thinking, hypocrisies, and pseudoscientific theories advanced by religious fundamentalists of all stripes. Forceful and articulate, scathing and funny, The Happy Atheist is a reaffirmation of the revelatory power of humor and the truth-revealing powers of science and reason. Read an excerpt here: http://ow.ly/z1Avd

The first hour and twelve minutes of this video cover PZ Myers's talk at the World Humanist Congress in Oslo.

In it, PZ talks about a wide variety of evolutionary concepts. He explains why altruism works, how to live in harmony with the environment without falling victim to the Naturalistic Fallacy, and how the evolution of worms altered our planet forever.

Schrödinger's rapist is back?

I’m not misogynist, maybe a bit of a misanthrope, but I’m sure that for supporting Dawkins’s comment on the Rebecca Watson issue some people would like to convince me that I’m a sexist. Well have a go at it, I agree with Dawkins.

More than that, actually. I disagree with PZ Myers, and the blog army that has made such an issue of a non-issue… apparently:

"a situation like this can lead to sexual assault"


Let me put this clear for everyone who’s been jumping in the bandwagon of labelling unintentional comments and behaviour as sexist, offensive, or harassment: it is not. If you accept that it is, you might as well accept the following scenarios:

An arabic man walks into a airplane from Boston to NY. The passengers ask for him to step out because they’re feeling offended by this. Certainly, they argue, this situation could lead to another 9/11.

If you find that absurd, congratulations, now go on and apply the same logic to your case. Rape happens, yes, we hate it. A situation like that could lead to sexual assault… maybe, and maybe not. As RD pointed out, he didn’t block her way out, he didn’t touch her, insult her, use nasty words, or something that could be considered real sexual assault, or harassment. His comment on the “Muslima” simply used irony to say hey, real rape happens, real assault happens, real repression happens, and Rebecca, friend, you weren’t a victim of it. And I agree. Even at 4AM in an elevator alone.

Stereotyping is stereotyping. I can agree with Rebecca saying she felt uncomfortable in that situation, I can agree with people saying that the man should have been thoughtful of this and not made such a proposal or approach, even if it wasn’t sexual. But from there to calling all men “potential” rapist… en fin.

I’m quite offended being considered Schrödinger’s rapist, but I get on with life.

Is a particular atheist community too church-like for your tastes? Don't join!

I don’t know why this concept is so difficult for some people to understand, especially PZ Myers.

Grrr. Epstein. I guess he’ll play his games, but I just find them so irrelevant. He’s exploring ways to structure atheist meetings modeled after religion.

I think it is entirely true that that weekly church ritual has deep appeal to people, and that there’s something there that can grab people and draw them in. But it’s a cheat and a waste. Tapping into our psychology to get us to sit and get sucked into pointless ritual is not how I want to see the atheist movement evolve. I want us to think and act, not reassure ourselves by going through repetitive motions, through superstitious behavior.

Ceremonies to mark major events in our lives, sure; that’s a celebration or a remembrance and entirely appropriate. But freethinkers ought not to be shackled by rote and rites. And they especially should not be led by “chaplains” or whatever the hell they’re going to call them. No gods, no masters, no dogma, and no goddamned priests…not even atheist priests.

I’ve been attending a humanist unchurch for a couple years now.  I can tell from experience that PZ has no idea what he’s talking about.  He’s set up a false dichotomy between ritual and thought/action that can be blown away if he had attended even the most recent Sunday morning platform at the St Louis Ethical Society.

Turns out, people can both sing in the choir and have a moment of silence and listen to a presentation on community outreach projects to help keep homeless people from freezing to death and to support the local LGBT community center.  Or hear different perspectives on government regulation of vices such as gambling and drug use.  Or listen to someone’s personal story about her time in the Peace Corp.  Or learn how to combat climate change.

So sure, unchurch meetings not for everyone, and you won’t be hearing me tell anyone they “ought” to join such an organization.  But it by no means equals being “shackled by rote and rites”.  Such a narrow-minded viewpoint to think all humanist communities need operate under the same organizational principles!

Or maybe I’m deluded into thinking all these topics are anything other than pseudoreligious dogma: http://www.ethicalstl.org/res_libraryaudio.html

Cross-posted from Atheist Nexus.

1. The process. I am accustomed to the idea that truth claims ought to be justified with some reasonable evidence: if one is going to claim that, for instance, a Jewish carpenter was the son of a god, or that there is a place called heaven where some ineffable magical part of you goes when you die, then there ought to be some credible reason to believe that. And that reason ought to be more substantial than that it says so in a big book…after all, there are seven books claiming that Harry Potter is a wizard, and there aren’t very many people who see that as anything but fiction. Religious claims all seem to short-circuit the rational process of evidence-gathering and testing, and the sad thing is that many people don’t see a problem with that, and even consider it a virtue. It’s why I don’t just reject religion, but actively oppose it in all of its forms — because it is fundamentally a poison for the mind that undermines our critical faculties.

2. The absurdity. Religious beliefs are lazy jokes with bad punchlines. Why do you have to chop off the skin at the end of your penis? Because god says so. Why should you abstain from pork, or shrimp, or mixing meat and dairy, or your science classes? Because they might taint your relationship with your god. Why do you have to revere a bit of dry biscuit? Because it magically turns into a god when a priest mutters over it. Why do I have to be good? Because if you aren’t, a god will set you on fire for all eternity. These are ridiculous propositions. The whole business of religious is clownshoes freakin’ moonshine, hallowed by nothing but unthinking tradition, fear and superstitious behavior, and an establishment of con artists who have dedicated their lives to propping up a sense of self-importance by claiming to talk to an invisible big kahuna. It’s not just fact-free, it’s all nonsense.

—  PZ Myers, on why he does not believe in any gods.