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Evolutionary Explanations Add Illogic to Speculation

Evolutionary Explanations Add Illogic to Speculation

first_img(Visited 56 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0 Some evolutionary explanations may sound reasonable until you do the accounting from Darwin’s explanatory resources.Sealing their fate:  An article on seal (pinniped) evolution on Science Daily seems to give a straightforward account of why some species exhibit sexual dimorphism – large disparities between male and female body types.  Many seals, for instance, have large, dominant males who battle for control of their harems.  But can that fact have anything to do with climate change?A new study using the fossil record establishes that sexual dimorphism in pinnipeds, marked by harem-like behavior, arose around 27 million years ago in association with changing climatic conditions. Taken in the modern context of climate change, this research has major implications for the future of the species.The problem with the explanation is that a cause as broad as climate change should affect many more kinds of animals than pinnipeds.  And if seals are particularly prone to climate-generated sexual dimorphism, why do some species of seals exhibit it, and others do not?  Why would climate make the males large and dominant, but never the females?  The explanation appears vacuous when one realizes that temperature (climate) has no causative power; it just is.  Since the theory could explain opposite results with equal ease, it really explains nothing at all.Yet the article praises Thomas Cullen, a graduate of Carleton University, for making a “discovery” about pinnipeds that was published in the journal Evolution.  He apparently found an association between one fossil (presumed “ancestral”) that might show sexual dimorphism with estimates in evolutionary time of when the climate changed over an imagined period of 7 million years.  As philosophers are quick to point out, correlation is not causation.  Here’s how Cullen reasoned:Once Cullen and his team addressed the question of when sexual dimorphism in pinnipeds evolved, he was able to turn to the question of why it happened.”Our interpretation is that these changes were happening at a time when Earth was experiencing major climate and ocean circulation changes. Harem colonies were likely located at ocean upwelling sites that concentrate nutrients in otherwise nutrient-poor water. We think that this environmental factor, this concentration of large numbers of pinnipeds into one area, pressured them into developing the harem mating system and sexual dimorphism.”It’s not clear, though, why concentrated populations should make males big and females small.  Presumably it could lead to equality, or reduced fecundity.  If the evidence pointed that way, would Cullen admit to being falsified?  Unlikely; he could probably explain the opposite case with equal ease, appealing to evolutionary theory.  Nevertheless, he leaped from this highly speculative “explanation” into politics, worrying that today’s “climate change” might pressure modern seals toward sexual dimorphism:“Climate change today appears to be having an effect on the Arctic and Antarctic more than on the temperate and equatorial latitudes. Most Arctic and Antarctic pinnipeds aren’t really sexually dimorphic, and we think this is because the water in those areas is quite nutrient rich. The pinnipeds there didn’t have that selection pressure to form harem behavior because of the wide availability of nutrients. Going forward, if the effect of climate change is increased water temperature in the Arctic and Antarctic, it would suggest that the nutrient levels will be reduced. This could put more pressure on pinnipeds in the polar regions areas to form colonies and, as a result, harem behavior.”For one thing, Cullen doesn’t make it clear why we should be worried about it, even if he is right.  Before “climate change” became a political football, there have been dimorphic species and non-dimorphic species in the same environments.  Monogamous birds whose males and females look alike live alongside ungulates who maintain harems.  This undermines the suggestion that climate is a “cause” of dimorphism.  Additionally, is Cullen sneaking in some morality into the picture, suggesting that it would be “bad” if seals are driven toward dimorphism?  If evolution produces both outcomes, what’s the problem?Any way you look at Cullen’s evolutionary “explanation,” therefore, it is speculative and illogical.  He stacks a big explanatory burden on one fossil, of doubtful date that is not indisputable evidence of dimorphism to begin with.  Yet Cullen goes on to trumpet his “discovery” as a triumph of Darwinian theory:Cullen’s research presents some of the earliest evidence in marine mammals of what Charles Darwin wrote about when positing his theories of sexual selection in evolution. There has been a relative lack of new data on sexual dimorphism in the fossil record until now.“This paper shows that the fossil record can be really useful in answering evolutionary questions that could otherwise not be addressed,” says Cullen. “It also shows that a combination of modern and fossil analysis is crucial to thoroughly addressing evolutionary problems. We were really lucky to have access to a specimen of this nature.”Evolutionary puzzle solved!  PhysOrg celebrated how researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute succeeded in “Solving an evolutionary puzzle” – how some small fish in New Bedford Harbor developed resistance to PCBs.  The explanation?  The little fish, named killifish, lost a function:Normally when fish are exposed to harmful chemicals, the body steps up production of enzymes that break down the pollutants, a process controlled by the AHR2 protein. Some of the PCBs are not broken down in this way, and their continued stimulation of AHR2 disrupts cellular functions, leading to toxicity. In the New Bedford Harbor killifish, the AHR2 system has become resistant to this effect.“The killifish have managed to shut down the pathway,” said Mark Hahn, a biologist at WHOI and coauthor of the paper. “It’s an example of how some populations are able to adapt to changes in their environment—a snapshot of evolution at work.”Losing functions is not going to help Darwinism in the long run.  It’s like the merchant who lost money on every sale but hoped to make it up in volume.  Here, a complex system involving enzymes was shut down; nothing new was innovated by a Darwinian process.  This case is reminiscent of what Ken Ham said in his recent debate (2/05/14); he recalled a teacher giving a prime example of “evolution at work” in the case of cave fish going blind.  No logic can support a theory that accounts for all the advances in organismal complexity by a series of retreats, or by breaking complex systems that already exist.Being fair to spite:  Another example of a speculative evolutionary explanation with dangling logical lapses was published on Live Science, “Fairness May Have Evolved from Spite.”  Right off the bat, we see hedging of bets: it “may have evolved” this way.   A reader is thus granted permission to respond, “Then again, it may not have” (see 2/19/14).  Staff evolutionist Stephanie Pappas, who routinely justifies various sexual perversions on evolutionary grounds (e.g., 2/14/13), here used a Tufts University study to turn “negative” spite into a “positive” evolutionary force for good:The study is based on a theoretical model, not human experiments, but it opens up the possibility that fairness evolved not out of Kumbaya-style cooperation, but out of a need to get by when others act spiteful. In an economic game, the study found, fair behavior evolved in order to survive in an environment where spiteful players thrived.America’s illustrious AAAS chimed in with a rhetorical question, “Did Fairness Evolve from Spite?”  The default response should be, “No, until you prove it.”Once again, though, this “suggestion” did not provide a Darwinian explanation.  It did not tie a genetic mutation in the gametes to the trait, and then account for the trait’s spread by population genetics.  Did spite happen by chance, or by design?  If humans (or animals) started acting spiteful, how did that happen by unguided natural processes?  Did a cosmic ray hit the sperm of a male, turning his offspring toward a propensity for spitefulness?  Was that morally wrong?  The articles contain a subtext that spite is bad, and fairness is good.  That’s a moral judgment that Christians can understand, but it has no place in Darwinian theory. Yet “evolution” is offered throughout as the explanation for the origin of fairness.  Science Magazine speculates recklessly:Though they warn against generalizing to humans, the researchers point out that if fairness is the basis for a moral society, then paradoxically, spite may have played a role in the evolution of morality.That statement makes no sense in Darwinian theory.  Even if these behaviors are somehow tied to genetic mutations and natural selection, there is no way for Darwinism to predict that fairness would arise in the first place, or persist, or become dominant.  There are certainly no grounds for judging spitefulness to be immoral.  The whole explanation is speculative and theoretical, derived from “game theory,” not empirical observation and tests.  It’s also reductionist, taking the wind out of any moral judgment humans might make in law or public policy.  It reduces everything to games of winners and losers, not right and wrong.Left hanging:  Lucy Fiske made an observation that was hard to fit into her understanding of human nature, if fairness or altruism are products of blind, unguided natural contingencies.  PhysOrg reported her observing Indonesians willing to travel some distance to act as human shields against terrorists.  In “A rare insight into human kindness,” she said, “I was really moved by stories they told me about helping each other … It is more of a goodwill story than I expected because of the care from Indonesians.”  If evolutionary theory was any help explaining her emotional response to this observation, she didn’t mention it.If we can accomplish one thing here, it is to help readers see through the phony triumphalism of the Darwin Party, a group of phonies who pretend to represent “science” that must be protected in the schools.  OK, then, look at their explanations.  What are they?  They are speculative, illogical, vacuous stories pretending to be scientific explanations.  Darwinians can’t even remain true to their own theory, let alone account for the origin of fish, seals, and human beings.  Study these examples to see how they ply their trade in divination: using a questionable fossil to spin a tale about millions of years, using a breakdown to support a theory of innovation, using what they know to be a moral evil to weave a story about the origin of moral goodness.  You don’t have to be a Christian to condemn this.  It’s pure nonsense on its face.  If you respect true science, how can you endure this?  Everyone should be laughing out loud, not honoring these people as the receptacles of wisdom.Darwinians are the modern mesmers, captivating the weak-minded with silly notions.  They are the charlatans, the pretenders, the hoodwinkers.  Don’t drink the Darwine!  It’s snake oil, turning the drinker’s cerebral cortex into oatmeal, putting a silly grin on his face, making him believe he is a champion of science and reason.  The “explainers” in the above stories are themselves Darwinoholics.  They are drunk on Charlie’s “zombie idea,” expressing “irrational exuberance” over what?  Nonsense, non-science, non-sentience.  Don’t be captivated by their siren song.  Instead, be a taker of captives (2 Corinthians 10:5).last_img read more

Healthcare usage doubles since 2000

Healthcare usage doubles since 2000

first_img15 April 2008South Africans’ use of public healthcare services has almost doubled over the past eight years, with 101-million visits to clinics being recorded over the 2006/07 financial year.Addressing the opening of the National Consultative Health Forum (NCHF) recently, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said the increase was due to improved access as a result of building more than 1 600 clinics closer to the communities, improved package of care available at clinics and the removal of user fees.“Efforts have also been made to decrease the inequalities in the funding amongst health districts and have led to significant improvement in service delivery and health outcomes,” she said.Immunisation coverage currently stood at 85% and the average number of new cases of diarrhoea per 1000 children under the age of five dropped by more than half, from 258 in 2005 to 119 in 2006.“These successes are a result of determination of our health workers to deliver services to our people, there are some promising signs with respect to both HIV and TB,” Tshabalala-Msimang said.Success against HIV, TBShe further said that the 2006 antenatal survey showed for the first time a decline in HIV prevalence particularly amongst young people and that TB cure rates were improving annually while defaulter rates were declining.Tshabalala-Msimang told BuaNews that the significant decline in HIV prevalence on pregnant women under the age of 20 meant that young people had taken the department’s message seriously.“Peer groups go a long way in changing attitudes,” she explained.She added that the department was on the right track in terms of resource availability in clinics with 86% of health facilities having all the resources needed.ChallengesThe NCHF noted that while there were many achievements in the delivery of primary healthcare services in the country, there were still many challenges.This included improving access to primary healthcare services and equitable allocation of resources, the availability of adequate human resources for healthcare, improving quality of care, strengthening district management and increasing community participation.The forum called for a revised primary healthcare strategy for South Africa, in which per capita expenditure on primary healthcare would be doubled over the next 10 years.It also resolved to ensure that primary healthcare provided by the private health sector was made more affordable to the public.The NCHF represents government, public and private health sectors, statutory bodies, academics and research institutions, community organisations, civil society, non-governmental organisations and organised labour.SAinfo reporter Would you like to use this article in your publicationor on your website?See: Using SAinfo materiallast_img read more

GALLERY OF SPORTING IMAGES SHOTS

GALLERY OF SPORTING IMAGES SHOTS

first_imgSporting Images are the premier Touch Football photographer and the ever-present lens to capture all the action at the 2006 National Touch League.Michael and Glen have been wandering the fields capturing as many athletes as possible. They have generously provided all of the action shots you see on the TFA website.To view and purchase the images they have taken, simply visit www.sportingimages.com.au after the NTL. To see some of the pictures now, use the link ‘Gallery’ on the TFA website and then click on ‘2006 NTL’. This will take you to a selection of images from the 2006 NTL.Thanks guys, your work is fantastic!last_img

a month agoLiverpool had scout posted to see RB Leipzig ace Werner hit brace

a month agoLiverpool had scout posted to see RB Leipzig ace Werner hit brace

first_imgLiverpool had scout posted to see RB Leipzig ace Werner hit braceby Paul Vegasa month agoSend to a friendShare the loveLiverpool had a scout posted to watch Benfica’s clash with RB Leipzig on Tuesday night.The two sides were in action for the Champions League Group G opener.Record says the Reds, who were playing in Naples, had an official at the game which ended in 2-1 defeat for the Portuguese outfit.Rumoured Liverpool target Timo Werner was the star of the show as he scored a brace which clinched victory for the Bundesliga side. TagsTransfersAbout the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your saylast_img

Video: Florida State RB Commit Runs For One Of The Most Ridiculous Touchdowns You’ll Ever See

Video: Florida State RB Commit Runs For One Of The Most Ridiculous Touchdowns You’ll Ever See

first_imgFlorida State RB committee carries ball and evades the defense.Florida State RB Ridiculous RunZaquandre White is a four-star running back recruit from Cape Coral who is currently committed to the Florida State for the class of 2017. That should excite Seminoles fans, because apparently, he’s very hard to tackle. Earnest Graham, former Florida star, posted a video of White breaking a ridiculous number of tackles during a spring game for his high school team. It’s one of the craziest runs you will ever see. Via Tomahawk Nation: Here is a look that does the run way more justice. #applypressurePosted by Earnest Graham on Saturday, May 23, 2015Good luck to future opposing ACC defenses.last_img

Michigan Fan Gets Bicep Signed By Jim Harbaugh, Heads To Tattoo Parlor To Make It Permanent

Michigan Fan Gets Bicep Signed By Jim Harbaugh, Heads To Tattoo Parlor To Make It Permanent

first_imgJim Harbaugh looks on from the sidelines.TAMPA, FL – JANUARY 1: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines looks on from the sidelines during the second quarter of the Outback Bowl NCAA college football game against the South Carolina Gamecocks on January 1, 2018 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)Most fans – even crazy college football fans – get autographs from their favorite players and coaches on jerseys, footballs, pennants, or even just plain paper. But one Michigan supporter went a different route this week at Big Ten Media Days.A Michigan fan named Gerald got his bicep signed by Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh – and he’s looking to make it a permanent fixture. According to Michigan, the fan headed to the tattoo parlor to get the autograph inked on. Check it out:Our man Gerald with the bicep autograph from @CoachJim4UM… Next stop, the tattoo parlor!#GoBlue pic.twitter.com/FSR3oVc1oA— Michigan Football (@umichfootball) July 26, 2016 Considering he already has the school’s ‘M’ logo on his bicep, this isn’t a huge deal – just a nice addition. It looks like he’s ready for the 2016 season to start.last_img read more

Mark Cuban Under NBA Investigation for Sexual Assault Allegations

Mark Cuban Under NBA Investigation for Sexual Assault Allegations

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban stands on stage before a news conference in Dallas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins, File)DALLAS (AP) — The NBA is reviewing 2011 allegations of sexual assault against Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and the investigation that led to a decision by prosecutors not to pursue the case.League spokesman Mike Bass said Wednesday the NBA was looking into the matter, a day after a weekly alternative newspaper in Portland, Oregon, reported a woman’s claim that Cuban put his hands down her pants and touched her inappropriately while they were taking a photo at a Portland nightclub.“The NBA league office is reviewing the 2011 allegations against Mark Cuban and the subsequent findings from the Portland police investigation,” Bass said.The report Tuesday in the Willamette Week came about a week and half after a Sports Illustrated account that portrayed a hostile work environment for women in the front office of the Mavericks. While Cuban wasn’t implicated, the SI report raised questions about what he knew and when.Cuban flatly denied the woman’s allegations and provided a prosecutors’ report detailing the decision not to file charges.Prosecutors wrote that “there is no evidence to corroborate the complainant’s statement and there is evidence contradicting the claim.” The report also said the woman didn’t want to proceed with the allegation.The Portland weekly’s report included a transcript of Cuban’s phone conversation with a police detective, with the Dallas owner strongly denying the claim while expressing concern that he would have difficulty defending himself in court.In the SI report, former Mavericks CEO Terdema Ussery was accused of making sexually suggestive remarks to several women. Ussery was investigated by the team over similar claims in 1998, two years before Cuban bought the team. He worked for Cuban for 15 years.Cuban told SI that he fired human resources director Buddy Pittman after learning details of the magazine’s report, which included claims that superiors were seen as unresponsive to complaints.The SI report said team website reporter Earl Sneed was twice accused of domestic assault while working for the Mavericks, including a guilty plea in a case that was dismissed when he met the conditions of the agreement. Sneed also was fired. read more

Winning 10 Straight Put the Royals Playoff Chances at Even Money

Winning 10 Straight Put the Royals Playoff Chances at Even Money

These playoff percentages mean that about 58 percent of all win streaks that passed through 10 games came from teams that eventually made the playoffs, a slight increase from before.The Royals are right at the previous season average (they went 86-76, which gets you a regressed winning percentage around .522), but their pre-streak record was slightly below the standard for other 10-win-streak teams; their “at the time” regressed winning percentage was .488. How much does that matter?To determine whether these Royals could be a playoff team, we set up a logistic regression predicting make-the-playoffs odds from streak length, at-the-time regression winning percentage, and prior-season regressed winning percentage. This also helped us figure out how much of the chance of making the playoffs comes from the streak itself, and how much is just that good teams are more prone to run up these kinds of streaks. Causation versus correlation, basically.After running the regression, it told us that the Royals are 23.2 percent less likely to make the playoffs than a normal 10-game-win-streak team because their record before the streak was 29-32, whereas the typical 10-gamer would have been 32-29. That looks like a very strong effect for just a three-game swing; we might be seeing a big inflection point here. At any rate, as you would expect, pre-streak record certainly matters.Once we take their 10-win streak into account, the Royals have a little better than even odds of making the playoffs. Baseball Prospectus’s Playoff Odds Report gives KC a 42.3 percent chance of getting there. So if you want to peg the Royals somewhere around 50-50, that’s a decent place to start. And if you think about Kansas City’s roster — one with strengths but also significant weaknesses — that makes even more sense.On the plus side, the Royals are an elite defensive team. According to Baseball Info Solutions’ Defensive Runs Saved stat, KC has fielded the second-best defense in the American League. By Ultimate Zone Rating, the Royals actually lead all of baseball, and by a wide margin. The outfield is particularly impressive: The combination of Jarrod Dyson and Lorenzo Cain has been extremely effective in chasing down fly balls in the gaps. Meanwhile, Alex Gordon has been a force of nature in left field, the best in all of baseball by pretty much any advanced metric. He’s pretty good by Fancy Plays Over Replacement too.Your browser does not support iframes.That airtight defense has made an already strong pitching staff look even better. Closer Greg Holland and righty setup men Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera have combined to allow just one home run in 89 innings pitched this season.Davis in particular has been a revelation. Acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in the controversial December 2012 blockbuster, Davis was viewed as a throw-in, with James Shields and Wil Myers being the keys to the deal. After messing around with Davis as a starter last year, the Royals plopped him back into the role in which he excelled with Tampa Bay two years ago. So far this year, he has been right there with Sean Doolittle, Koji Uehara, Dellin Betances and one or two others for the title of best reliever in the American League. His season line: 31.1 innings pitched, 1.15 ERA, 52 strikeouts, and zero extra-base hits allowed.The starting rotation has flourished lately, too. Shields has been steady as expected, though his numbers are actually down slightly from recent years. But he’s received ample support, from 23-year-old fireballer Yordano Ventura (who leads all KC starters in fielding independent pitching), free-agent pickup Jason Vargas (tops in innings pitched), and Danny Duffy (tops in beating long odds, having come back from Tommy John surgery, and at one point nearly quitting baseball entirely).The big question revolves around the team’s offense. Just 13 days ago, the Royals sat in last place in the AL Central, and also last in the AL in slugging percentage, home runs and runs scored. Some of the team’s biggest slumpers came alive during the streak, especially Billy Butler and Mike Moustakas. Still, those players, along with talented but disappointing first baseman Eric Hosmer, have fallen well short of expectations in 2014, and KC still owns the third-lowest-scoring offense in the American League even after its recent explosion. The Royals almost certainly won’t be sellers any more at the trade deadline, not after this streak. Whether they’ll be buyers — to the point of possibly benching or jettisoning current players once viewed as future franchise cornerstones — remains an open question.Still, it’s a great question to get to ask. After nearly three decades in the wilderness, the Royals now have a legitimate shot to see October’s spotlight. It’s about damn time. The Detroit Tigers nipped the Kansas City Royals 2-1 in the final game of a four-game series Thursday. That win snapped a 10-game winning streak for KC, but even with that setback the Royals lead the American League Central Division by half a game. In late June. This is not a drill.If the baseball world seems shocked by the Royals’ sudden success, the franchise’s recent history may explain why. When the Royals beat the Tigers on Tuesday in the second game of their showdown for AL Central supremacy, the victory marked the first time the Royals had owned sole possession of first place since May 1, 2013.Of course, downtrodden teams always have a better chance to claim bragging rights early in the season, when hot starts and small sample sizes can skew what we’re seeing. So consider this: The last time the Royals were in first place after June 1 was all the way back in 2003. That year, Kansas City preyed on a weak AL Central — one dragged down by a 119-loss Tigers squad and no elite teams — to own a share of first as late as Aug. 20. They ended the season seven games off the pace at 83-79, a lukewarm showing for most franchises. For the Royals, the finish was almost something to celebrate. Kansas City hasn’t made the playoffs since 1985, the longest postseason drought for any major league team by a span of eight years.Now here’s the good news for Royals fans: Teams that win 10 straight games in a single season stand a good chance of making the playoffs. Which means that for the first time since “Careless Whisper” wasn’t at all ironic, the Royals could crack the postseason.Going back to 1995, the first year of the wild card,1The wild card was supposed to debut in 1994. But … well, you know. we looked at all teams that had a streak lasting at least one game (you gotta start somewhere), to see how often those streaks portended October baseball. Here are the results:As you can see, every team passed through streaks of one, two and three wins, and all but four teams passed through a streak of four wins. By this measure, with a 10-win streak the Royals have about a 55 percent chance of making the playoffs.2You’ll notice that it appears that a team is more likely to make the playoffs if it’s had an 11-game win streak than if it’s had a 12-game win streak. That’s just one of those weird quirks that can happen due to randomness in a small sample.It’s not quite that simple, though. Before their streak began, the Royals’ record only stood at 29-32, so they may not be totally representative of the type of team that tends to have 10-game win streaks. To examine that further, we looked at historical winning streaks of a given length since 1995 and tracked what each team’s regressed winning percentage was before the streak started (that is, we added 67 games of .500 baseball — 33.5 wins and 33.5 losses — to each team’s record at the time).3Regressed winning percentages add 67 games of .500 ball because that’s the number of games necessary for a team’s observed record to be half skill and half luck. (We know this by comparing the distribution of actual baseball teams’ records to the spread we’d see if every team was equal and each game was decided by a coin flip.) We used regressed winning percentages here so that every pre-streak winning percentage would be on the same footing, no matter when in the season the streak began. Otherwise, if one team started its streak early in the season, and another started it late, a straight average would weigh the two winning percentages equally even though the latter is much more indicative of what we’re trying to measure than the former. By regressing the records, we can make an apples-to-apples comparison between the streaks, no matter when in the season they occurred. We also recorded each team’s regressed winning percentage from the previous season. The results: read more

LeBron May Know Best About When The NewLook Cavs Have Gelled

LeBron May Know Best About When The NewLook Cavs Have Gelled

LeBron James predicted the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers, featuring himself and new Cav Kevin Love, would take a while to hit their stride. (“A couple of months and maybe a few,” as he put it last month.) He appears to have been correct: After starting 19-20 — with enough ups and downs that at times some commentators prematurely declared the Cavs to have gelled — Cleveland has won eight straight games, including impressive victories against the Clippers, Bulls, Thunder and Trail Blazers.We’re pretty sure that when James made that prediction, he wasn’t running regressions on historical NBA data. That’s because we tried, and we couldn’t find much evidence to back up the conventional wisdom.It makes sense that teams with lots of new players in major roles would get better during the season, as the new teammates get used to playing with one another. There just isn’t much statistical evidence to back up that theory — partly because it’s unusual for a team as good as Cleveland to rely so heavily on new arrivals.To study whether teams like Cleveland gel later in the season than more stable clubs like San Antonio, we looked at the fate of 939 older teams — those that played 82-game seasons back to 1978. To estimate how much of their contribution they were getting from newbies, we divided the total wins above replacement (WAR) of new players by the team total, omitting players who were below replacement value. Then we divided up the first 80 games of each season into 10 eight-game buckets — omitting the last two games because some teams rest starters — and checked how each team did, in each bucket, based on their opponent-adjusted point differential.There wasn’t a meaningful pattern. For instance, teams that peaked earliest, in the first eight games of the season, got an average of 20 percent of their WAR from new players. Teams that peaked in the middle of the season got an average of a little over 25 percent of WAR. But then teams that peaked between Game 49 and Game 80 averaged a contribution of about 21 percent of WAR from newbies.Part of the problem we had is that there haven’t been many teams that relied on new players as much as the Cavs do. They’ve gotten 63 percent of their WAR from new guys. That’s more than all but 48 teams in our data set — a group that doesn’t include James’s first Miami team, which got 57 percent of WAR from new players (the Heat peaked between Games 17 and 24). And most of those teams were lousy clubs, presumably rebuilding with rookies and cheap castoffs. Their average Pythagorean winning percentage was 36.3 percent.We nonetheless zoomed in on teams similar to Cleveland and found there is a small pattern of playing worse early and better at midseason, which fits the conventional wisdom. But it’s likely just noise. The only statistically significant difference was for the final 10-game chunk we studied, in which teams like the Cavs did a lot worse than average — which runs counter to the conventional wisdom of gelling and improving with time playing together.The lesson seems to be that a team starring James, Love and Kyrie Irving playing together for the first time might really need some time to gel, but there aren’t enough teams like the 2014-15 Cavaliers to say that their experience is typical. (One other possible reason it’s hard to detect much of a relationship: Some teams — like the Cavs — get new contributors at the start of the season, while others start playing rookies and midseason trade acquisitions late in seasons that are lost causes.)As is often the case in sports analysis, we have to trade off precision for sample size, and in this case the sample of teams like the Cavs is too small for the stats to beat the intuitive prediction of James. read more

Barcelona vs Juventus Is The Strongest Champions League Final Ever

Barcelona vs Juventus Is The Strongest Champions League Final Ever

1999Man. U.England Barcelona will take on Italian side Juventus in the Champions League final Saturday, and it may well be the strongest Champions League final ever. The sum of Barcelona and Juventus’s Elo ratings, according to the Football Club Elo Ratings, is higher than any final in history. (We love Elo around here — we’ve used it to explore the NBA, the NFL, chess and even Scrabble. Teams gain points for wins and lose them for losses. The higher your rating, the better.) You can see all this data from Champions League — known as the European Cup before 1992 — finals in the table at the top of this post.1One may suspect that some ratings inflation is responsible for the strength of this and a few other recent finals. However, a simple regression reveals only a very weak inflationary trend. One reason for the strength of many recent finals may be increasing inequality — the gulf between the great teams and the average ones is likely widening. Also note that the 1974 final was replayed, hence its appearing twice. And if a few totals look off, that’s because of rounding.Juventus won Serie A by a full 17 points over second-place Roma, and its average league game was a 1.3-goal victory. And it’s fourth in the world according to Elo — only Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are rated higher. This would be Juventus’s third title.But Barcelona is beyond strong — so much so that it’s nearly unprecedented. It’s currently top-ranked in Europe and, by Elo, the strongest team to ever appear in a Champions League final. This would be Barça’s fifth title. 1988PSV EindhovenNetherlands 1972AjaxNetherlands 2009BarcelonaSpain YEARTEAMCOUNTRY 1967CelticScotland 2010Inter MilanItaly 2013Bayern MunichGermany And both teams are at near-historic peaks. Unsurprisingly, given the trophies it’s won already this year, Barcelona has shot up since the beginning of 2015 and is just about one win away from achieving the highest Elo rating in club history. Ditto Juventus, which is in its finest form in more than 15 years. It helps that both teams have won two major trophies already this year — whoever wins the Champ League final will complete a rare “treble.” (This has happened only seven times in European soccer, including once for Barça, shown in the table.)Oh, right, and there’s this Lionel Messi fellow, who plays for Barcelona. The game could serve as a popular referendum on his status as the greatest footballer of all time. If he scores in the match, he’ll be the first to do so in three Champions League finals, and he will lead outright this year’s competition in scoring, edging out Cristiano Ronaldo. And after seeing this Messi goal in the Copa del Rey final last Saturday, I’m tempted to just throw all these spreadsheets out the window.The market odds for the game have, as I write, settled around 4-to-11 for favorite Barcelona and 9-to-4 for underdog Juventus — implying a roughly 70 percent chance of a Barça victory. That’s right in line with what the Elo ratings imply — about a 71 percent chance of a win for Barcelona. Just because it’s the strongest Champions League final ever doesn’t mean it’ll be the most competitive. read more