Friday, July 30, 2010

Why Lying to Children About Evolution is Dangerous

In Russia, a super strain of Tuberculosis is slowly creeping across the world. Russian prisoners are crammed into prison cells under unsanitary conditions. When a prisoner contracts TB, he rarely completes his medication due to funding, thus the formation of a super TB strain results. And this super strain requires even more aggressive (and more expensive) treatment. This makes proper treatment of the prisoner even less likely. And sometimes, the TB strain is so highly evolved that no medication known to humankind will fight the uniquely formed strain of TB.

For some prisoners, contracting TB is a death sentence. Either the funding will not be provided to treat these prisoners, or they've contracted a terminal variant of TB. These prisoners die in their jail cells.

But sometimes a prisoner with a super TB strain completes his prison sentence and is released directly into the general population-- hacking and coughing as he walks out of the facility and into the public.

Then someone in the general population contracts the super strain of TB after unwittingly spending time in the presence of the infectious, coughing ex-convict. This poor person departs from his presence to make his or her way to the airport. This person plans to make an extended visit to New York City, for example, where he or she will eventually start hacking and coughing.

Why does this happen? Where will this stop?


Some studies have shown that a small percentage of people are immune to the HIV virus. In each person found so far, a mutation was noted. They don't have any receptors on their white blood cells like most other people. As a result, the HIV virus has no way to invade their immune system. Interestingly, this same trait is traced back genetically to survivors of the Bubonic Plague hundreds of years ago.

How can this be? Could this be a clue to a cure for AIDS? How can we better understand this?


As predators change over time, those who are most successful live to pass their traits on to their offspring. The prey who allude capture are awarded that same opportunity to pass on their genes to their offspring. Thus, you have a constant honing of predatory skills and evasive tactics between predator and prey. One sharpens the other over time. This is one of the components that drives the engine of evolution.

Real problems are happening and will need to be solved by understanding evolution.

If members of our society succeed in cranking out armies of young people who think evolution is science fiction, then we will dilute the upcoming scientific community. We will stop producing the necessary minds for solving these real, growing problems. We will produce doctors, scientists, and chemists who will fail the public when the next big biological problem come to visit humankind.

So many people hate the idea of evolution because the implications threaten their Fundamentalist beliefs in God. With clouded minds they lie to as many children as they can within our school systems for the express purpose of preserving their so called "American Values".

What good will come of preserving "American Values" if we are all wiped out by a super virus because nobody took into account the phenomena of evolution and how it drives the changes we see in biological life-- not just from millions of years ago, but for today as well?

OK, so you insist all day long that life was designed.

Fine. Sure. OK.

I don't care. Whatever.

You win.

But just know that even if you insist that life was designed by a creator, you cannot escape the fact that our world was then designed with evolution as part of the plan.

To overlook the fact of evolution is irresponsible. To ignore the fact of evolution is delusional.

And to insist that evolution is science fiction to millions of school kids across the nation is down right dangerous for our survival in the future.

And that's regardless of whether you believe in any particular god, or not.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Is Heaven in the Sky?

In the past, I have shared several dialogues between me and my son.

But today, I will share a dialogue between me and my five year old daughter.

My five year old attends the same day care that my son once did. The facility is quite good with the exception (in my view) that they will try to indoctrinate your child. After all, the daycare facility is run by a mega-church. What can one expect?

Now my daughter is finally starting to ask the tough questions about God. This day surly came faster than I thought.

While riding down the highway my daughter asks out of the blue:

“Daddy, is Heaven in the sky?”

“No sweetie. Heaven isn't up there in the sky. We've sent astronauts into space, we fly planes in the air all the time, and we have satellites floating around way up there in space. No one has bumped into Heaven up there. Pass the sky and you end up among the moon and stars. So between the ground and space where the sky is, we haven't found Heaven.”

I could have told her that Heaven was the sky. But I think the heart of her question was really, “Is God's home up there in the sky?”

Whether you're a theist or not, can you honestly say that God is sitting up there somewhere in the sky?

Anyhow . . .

My daughter thought about my answer for a moment. Then she asked,

“Well, what are all those clouds in the sky for?”

I guess she was wondering why clouds needed to float majestically in the Heavens above if Heaven isn't really “up there”.

“They aren't really for anything, exactly." I said. "The clouds are in the sky because water turns into a gas when it gets hot.”

“A gas?” She seemed to know what “gas” was, but was caught off guard with the idea that water could exist as a “gas”.

Time to introduce the fact that matter can exist in several phases.

“Yeah . . . you know what an ice cube is, right?”

“Yeah, but I don't like ice cubes. They hurt my hands and lips and I can't crunch them with my teeth. They hurt because they are so cold.”

“Right. Well, when water is really, really cold it turns into something like a rock. It becomes solid. When water is not so cold, we see it the usual way-- as a liquid.

“Daddy . . . what's a liquid?”

“Anything that is “wet” like water is a liquid. The juice you love to drink all the time is liquid like water.”

I paused for a moment, then continued.

“And if water gets hot, it turns to gas and floats into the air. As the gas keeps going up and up, it starts to cool again and forms the clouds you see. When a cloud gets too big and can't hold any more water, it releases that water to the ground. You know that that's called?”

“Rain!”

“Exactly!”

Then my daughter says, “I know that when I drink too much water, I have to pee. Just like the clouds when they hold too much water and start to rain!”

Hey . . . she came up with that one all on her own. That "pee" thing wasn't my idea.

Then she asked why she couldn't hold her pee forever. You know, it's such an inconvenience to stop playing just to go pee, after all.

So my son and I started to explain the purpose of a bladder.

And then that question turned into another conversation all together.

Notice that I did not tell my daughter that Heaven did not exist. I only told her the truth about the sky. We have not found Heaven up there and the clouds come from a cycle of evaporation and condensation. Have you heard any reports of Heaven being found in the sky?

This is no different than what I did with my son. I simply gave him facts and tried to encourage him to think for himself. I'm now doing this for my daughter.

No crime or criticism can be found in that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

By the way, below is an interesting graphic of "the Heavens" as depicted by the website Our Amazing Planet.

Earth's Atmosphere Top to Bottom
[Source: Telescopes for Beginners for OurAmazingPlanet.com]


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Dominance

Upon closer examination of the human psyche, I now understand why gods have anthropomorphic traits. To say that gods are simply reflections of mankind might still be true. But even so, such a description may be a bit too simplistic.

According to Christianity and Judaism at least, humans are made in the image of God. This has been debated to mean that humans are like God in that we share the capacity for emotion and personality just like God does. Many other origin stories of humanity involve some anthropomorphizing of nature-- thus nature creating humankind becomes a supernatural event.

In light of this interpretation, it only makes sense that God would be anthropomorphic in his (or her) behavior. Humans have a nature for sure. We are social yet territorial. We are cooperative, yet always find ourselves in conflicts and struggles with each other. We are generally altruistic, and have the potential to be murders. We humbly give in one minute and can then seethe with angry jealousy the next.

The God of the Old Testament (at least) had to be human-like if we were designed after him; It only makes sense.

But one oddity I find in this analysis is that we humans are deeply social. Thus, the dichotomies I mentioned above. Our social nature makes conflicts inevitable. We are not Utopian creatures. We live in a competitive environment with limited resources. Selfishness is sometimes a virtue when there is only one precious item left-- but many people need or want it.

See, the fact that the social nature of humanity brings out the best and worst in us begs (in my opinion) an important question:

Why is it that God (who is solitary and omnipotent) exhibits the traits of social creatures?

Ah! But God is not alone. He's the alpha-male over his angels. He has a beta-male rival named Lucifer who tries to take away God's most prized possession-- Mankind, the crown jewel of all that was created.

Lucifer was kicked out of heaven, like a beta-chimp who failed in his coup against the alpha-male of his troop.

So the God of the Old Testament is most likely described with accuracy if we are indeed made after his image. God is jealous. He will crush those that oppose him. Now it makes sense that God would threaten to make you burn for eternity if you angered him enough. Just give him a reason to make an example of you and he will do it.

The idea of Hell is simply a deterrent devised to protect the next Utopia God creates-- AKA "The Afterlife".

Beta-deities need not apply.

God is at the top of the grand social hierarchy of the universe. He is dominant over all creation.

Dig back into time and archeology will suggest that Yahweh was contending for the top spot in a pantheon of Canaanite gods thousands of years ago. When Yahweh finally reached the top, he didn't just simply declare himself and his consort the ruler of all other gods, but he eliminated all gods and declared himself the only true deity of all time.

No wonder we humans act so much like God!

Ah, but then there is another alternative.

God is an artifice of the human psyche and thusly, any given god acts like us humans.

Either way, God can be a brute just as we can be. He's prone to be irrational, illogical, and irritable just like we. He enjoys bragging that he's the best-- even to the point of claiming omnipotence-- though at times he's failed to fulfill this description.

Just as we humans sometimes do.

People constantly vie (in overt and subtle ways) for dominance. God (and any other "little" god) is no different.

Yes, God is no different from us; He is human.

And it's human nature for me to refuse kneeling down* to any god upon this revelation. No human kneels to anyone else without first witnessing a proper display of dominance. Only after that will most people humble themselves into a state of abject submission.

So tell me then . . . is that analysis descriptive of creationism?

Or does that sound like hard core evolution?


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


* I can't help but think of these lines from the movie 300:

Xerxes: It is not the lash they fear. It is my divine power. But I am a generous god. I can make you rich beyond all measure. I will make you warlord of all Greece. You will carry my battle standard to the heart of Europa. Your Athenian rivals will kneel at your feet if you will but kneel at mine.

Leonidas: You are generous as you are divine, O King of Kings. Such an offer only a madman would refuse. But the, uh, the idea of kneeling, it's... You see, slaughtering all those men of yours has, uh, well, it's left a nasty cramp in my leg, so kneeling will be hard for me.

Xerxes (now, infuriated): There will be no glory in your sacrifice. I will erase even the memory of Sparta from the histories. Every piece of Greek parchment shall be burned and every Greek historian and every scribe shall have their eyes put out and their tongues cut from their mouths. Why, uttering the very name of Sparta or Leonidas will be punishable by death. The world will never know you existed at all!

Leonidas: The world will know that free men stood against a tyrant, that few stood against many and, before this battle is over, that even a god-king can bleed.

Friday, July 16, 2010

There's a God For That

I've recently heard a married woman give an account of how another married man made inappropriate sexual advances at her.

Among the ways he tried to woo her, he stated that God obviously allowed them to meet for a reason. So what's holding her back from sneaking off with him?

God?

That notion appalled the woman most of all.


That's when I realized something. God is what you make of him.

  • If you need a little infidelity in your life, there's a god (or allah) for that.
  • If you need to be vindictive, then there's a god for that.
  • If you need to hate others that are different than you, there's a god for that.
  • If you need to feel accepted even though the scripture text of your religion calls your lifestyle an abomination, there's a god for that.
  • If you need altruism to exist in the universe, there's a god for that.
  • If you need to start up an inquisition, there's a god for that.
  • Need to burn some crosses in somebody's yard? There's a god for that.
  • Do you need god to be "she" rather than "he"? There's a goddess for that!
There is a god (or goddess) that can fit any need, belief, whim, or hate.

I will admit that some people who believe in god are inspired to love and care for others. People like that usually have a benevolent god in their lives. I think this is because such people happen to already be benevolent for prior reasons.

But even a confidence artist will say that God has caused his victims to cross his path.

Why?

Because that's the kind of god a confidence artist will serve.

God is merely a reflection of his worshipers' hearts-- a projection of the deep recesses found within a worshiper's mind.

In the end, God is what you make of him.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Stoning of Soraya M.

While following up on the condition of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, I learned of a movie called The Stoning of Soraya M., which is based upon a book of the same name.

The gut wrenching part is that the book is claimed to be based upon true events as the movie attempts to bring the book to visual life.

I just finished watching the movie; this movie was one of the most difficult movies I've ever watched. Not because it was poorly done. Not at all! But to sit through such cruelty was so very, very difficult to do.

Soraya M. was helpless. No dobut Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is just as helpless.

Reports are leaking out that Ashtiani is also a murder who mutilated her husband and deserves the death penalty. I honestly cannot say. I wasn't there. But considering the way that theocracies typically oppress women, I think the murderers in this case are the judiciaries and the one about to be mutilated is poor Ashtiani.

Now . . . for anyone who thinks I'm attacking Islam in this post, I am not. I'm only attacking the cruelty of stoning.

But if the shoe fits . . .

In other words . . . if your religion supports this kind of act-- then yes, I am attacking your personal religious beliefs. Any belief that generates cruelty of such magnitude brings shame upon the entire human race.

And of those who plan to stone Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani-- their beliefs likewise bring shame upon the whole human race.

May Allah one day forgive such people of their wickedness.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sign O' the Times

Here ya go, the sign of the Apocalypse:




Friday, July 9, 2010

Know It All's

I've noticed that when doubters criticize a clam such as a yogi levitating or fasting for inordinate amounts of time, people come out of the woodworks and accuse the skeptical of being "know-it-all's" who need to humble themselves, open their minds, and realize that science is limited-- no, powerless-- to explain why a yogi can float or live off of air alone.

Admittedly, many doubters and skeptics can often come across sounding condescending and arrogant. OK . . . so that probably isn't very cool.

But the true skeptic knows he or she is not a "know-it-all". Quite the opposite-- a true skeptic knows he or she is limited in understanding. That's why we doubt. We're not sure until we get some solid evidence. And even then, we endeavor to keep our eyes open for new information that could change our perspective. At least . . . that's the goal. We don't always maintain that stance, but we try to consistently aim for that ideal.

So lets do some tests and see if we can find out if that yogi can really, honestly float.

We're not know-it-all's. We just want a bit more certainty. Until then, we maintain doubt towards unsubstantiated claims.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ninety-Nine Lashes

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is on death row for adultery. She is waiting to be stoned to death in Iran unless someone somehow prevents this brutal atrocity from happening.

How could stoning someone for infidelity ever be upheld by law?

How can stoning someone for any reason be advocated by God above? If we're appalled by a modern day stoning, then a stoning of ancient times is just as heinous.

Ashtiani has already endured ninety-nine lashes for her alleged crime. Now, she sits in fear waiting to be buried from the torso down in preparation for her execution by stoning.

Even if we know she is guilty, this is too harsh of a punishment. And worse, she may have been coerced into her confession from the beginning.

I wonder what happens to the other person with whom she committed adultery.

All around, this is horrible. And ancient religious scripture mixed with human cruelty is to blame.

I certainly hope mercy wins out in the end.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Liberty Enlightening the World

I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward for evermore.

-- John Adams


Our nation absolved allegiance from the British Crown in order to rule itself on July 4th, 1776 by issuing the Declaration of Independence.

This event makes every Fourth of July special. Each Fourth of July marks one more year that this nation has remained free. And today, we've reached 234 years now.

Let us all contemplate how wonderful liberty is. Let us all appreciate our freedom by learning about where it came from in the first place.

Let us be grateful for all servicemen and servicewomen who sacrifice and join our all-volunteer military so that our freedom is protected.

Be grateful for the democratic process and our elected officials who participate in this great political experiment. And be grateful for our justice system. Even with the flaws and frustrations of our legal system, we could be worse off.

And be grateful that we can complain to our elected officials and even poke fun at them when it suits us, because we have freedom of speech and expression.

And, thank your God, should you believe in him (or her) -- exercise your freedom of religious expression.

And if you are a non-believer, breath in the fresh air of freedom because you may exercise your freedom of personal expression and freedom of any sort of religious oppression.

Think of how ancient Greece and Rome once stood as beacons of light to the rest of civilization. Then consider how these empires fell and plunged the world into the Dark Ages. Consider the events which characterized the Dark Ages, then think on the Age of Enlightenment and how it emerged from that period of darkness. Consider how great minds, great discoveries, and great words of expression re-kindled the flame that illuminated the dark world once again.

Know that liberty is the cornerstone of enlightenment; Liberty enlightens the world.

Think on the original name of our great Statue of Liberty. Consider how it was a gift from the French who helped us during our Revolution. Then take time to contemplate the French's role in the Enlightenment era. And take time to think about how a French sculptor took symbols from the best of world civilization and embodied them in our greatest monument of freedom -- a token given to our country to celebrate it's centennial birthday.

Celebrate this day. Eat some potato salad and barbecue. And if your vegan, eat some barbecue tofu in honor of this day.

If you had to work today, I hope you can still take time to celebrate. Sit back, relax, and enjoy your freedom -- even if you have to take a rain check and celebrate tomorrow.

(Originally posted 0n 07/4/2009, though I did change the number of years we've been free.)

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Octogenarian Breathetarian Pt. 2

In my previous post, I ended by asking what would have to be true if Prahlad Jani truly and honestly abstained from food AND water for 70 years.

Well, first we shall examine his claims:

  • He hasn't eaten since he was 11 years old.
  • He receives nutrition from a secretion in his pallet by the divine power of a deity.
  • He never passes stool.
  • He never passes urine.

So based on these claims then, what would have to be true? These are some of my thoughts, which could be wrong. But I think they are worth considering:

  • If Jani has any teeth left, they would probably be special teeth. And if he has no teeth, then the loss of his teeth raises questions in my opinion.

If he hasn't eaten since he was 11 years old, his teeth will be hardly used. A dental examination might show his teeth to be different from most other adults. I'm assuming he has some of his teeth still. If not, then why did he lose them? Malnutrition? Poor dental hygiene? An unspoken point behind researching the claims of a 70 year fast is that Jani is in good health despite his food abstinence. His teeth might be able to tell us a lot.

  • One way or another, he receives nutrition. The source of his auto-generating nutrition should be verifiable.

We can take a swab of the hole in his pallet and analyze the juicy goodness found in those claimed secretions that he has. He isn't truly living by air alone. He says so himself (whether he knows it or not) by claiming that the goddess he worships drips a sort of elixir down his throat to keep him sustained. If there's no juicy goodness in his throat, then he is sustained by other means and misunderstands his own method of survival.

Or maybe his auto-nutrition comes from the sun or simply breathing as others have claimed.

Or, perhaps he's made fraudulent claims.

Either way, some source of nutrition has to be going on in his body. The proper tests should be able to ferret out the source.

  • He cannot have symptoms of starvation since he is nourished somehow.

Since he actually does receive nutrition somehow, his body mustn't auto-digest. So, weight loss should be negligible. The guy looks so skinny that he doesn't seem to have any more weight to lose. But other signs of malnourishment might manifest themselves if he were kept under longer periods of observation. He should be kept for a month or more under strict observation before we get too excited about the last two studies published concerning his feats of fasting.

  • He produces at least some waste.

Jani's bladder does produce urine. Producing urine highly suggests he produces some sort of waste from his nutrition source. Why doesn't he pass it then? Testing his urine would be very interesting, too. And why does he have bowel gas? The tasty treats dripping in the back of his throat don't produce stool? This stuff must be pure goodness! Even his urine is nutritious and gets reabsorbed by his body!


These are just a few ideas I have after some thought about his claims.

And what would have to be true if he's lying?


  • He will pass waste, eventually.
Someone needs to analyze his bath water.

  • He will sneak off into the jungle and eat some leaves off the trees or something. He'll stoop down at a nearby brook and slurp up some H2O when he thinks no one is watching.

Someone simply needs to stalk him with a camera for a bit. They might just be rewarded by catching him coming out of the jungle with a big ol' slurppy cup from Seven-Eleven.

Or maybe he'll get caught coming out of the jungle turnin' up a 40 oz. of Mad Dog 20/20.

  • He won't have any verifiable signs of auto-generating his own nutrition

I think this point hurts the two studies. They didn't do any invasive procedures such as taking blood samples and such. All they did was monitor Jani. If he greased the right palms, someone could have slipped him something to eat and drink if the observation methods weren't strict enough to prevent an inside job. He sat in ICU for 24 hours before the observations began. He could have made some deals or gulped down some water before the testing began.

Anyhow. Jani claims he's nourished. Signs of that need to exist and I think can be easily verified by some blood tests and some microscope slides.


At the time of writing this, I haven't heard if someone has caught Jani contradicting his claims. Nor have I heard any scientific hypothesis that explains why he seemed to endure a 10 day and 15 day fast without passing any waste.

I don't believe Jani based on his word. And I'm not too confident in the study so far. I've been lied to in my life too often to simply accept their claims without some hard proof.

Until then, I maintain that Jani is a lying about his 70 year fast, but maybe has the uncanny ability to fast longer than the average human because of his meditation techniques.

Otherwise, I need to start worshiping Jani's deity, huh?