Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Amazing adult stem cells

There is a story today that a boy born with a rare genetic disorder that renders him extremely susceptible to infection has been cured using the combination of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant to create for him a new immune system. You can read the story here.

In case you didn't know, a bone marrow transplant is a transplant of adult stem cells. I am a huge fan of stem cell research. Adult stem cell research. Because it saves lives without sacrificing them.

Monday, June 02, 2008

A good predictive theory

It is my observation, nothing more, that Darwinian evolution has proven a poor source of predictions about the actual world. The obvious predictions: that we would in time find a wide range of transitional fossils, that the processes of life could be developed in iterative steps, these need not be addressed. I have a more interesting case of the theory's poor predictive behavior, in two different examples.

I have a friend who suffers from horrible back problems. She has been subjected to innumerable surgeries (I'm sure she knows how many, but it's a lot). Many of her early surgeries were intended to remove some of the curvature from her back; as it was reasoned 3 decades ago that the amount of curvature in our spine is an evolutionary holdover, and in her case, reducing it would be advantageous. Of course, we now understand that the curvature of our spines is not a "holdover," but the very way they need to be shaped to support our bodies during upright locomotion, and her most recent surgeries have been to re-introduce the curvature. Oops.

Second, there is an article in National Geographic from several months ago (I am way behind) about the push to develop man-made analogues to some of the more remarkable naturally-occurring materials like spider silk. The article observes that scientists work from the assumption that the systems that produce these remarkable materials are constructed "accidentally," or piece-wise, and so try to find those parts that are "essential" for manufacturing. The problem is this is not working out so well. They are having little luck in simplifying the manufacturing processes, for the natural processes themselves exceed in every way our modern design capabilities. The article even admits that it appears that many of these processes may in fact be entirely essential, a counter-intuitive result when step-wise evolution is assumed to be the design force (their point, not mine).

I would like to see what would happen if a group of scientists and engineers started with the assumption that these systems were designed - would they have any greater luck in understanding and reproducing them? Maybe not, but we couldn't do any worse that the evolutionists have done so far.