The fourth of July has come and gone once again with a bit more of a bang in Michigan than usual; the legalization of airborne fireworks reducing neighborhoods to the quiet relaxing sounds of Afghanistan and Syria, not to mention rampant pet terror at what could only be “The End of Days”. All this culminating as I sat watching the Kentwood Michigan fireworks display with an uneasy feeling as to the development of my baby girl in utero and my own evolutionary failings.
For those of you who haven’t gathered from the above pseudonym I am fond of, Deafilosophy, I am an 85-90 percent deaf atheist with no memory of ever having full spectrum hearing.
The reason my handicap is important for a post about the evolution of a tiny life has to do with genetics, mutation, protein mis-folding, and bullying. I know that last one is a bit of a stretch but, patience grasshopper, all will be tied in a neat little bow before long.
Once again we are visited by our good friend David Goza who lights our way regularly from the dark pits of YouTube
Anatomically modern humans have lived on this planet for at least 200,000 years. During that time, our ancestors – or people whom our ancestors knew – have eaten, drunk, smoked, snorted, or otherwise ingested (use your rich imagination) absolutely everything on the surface of this planet. You know that’s true – hell, they’re still doing it! Now, some of those things caused the ingestees to die horribly. Those particular people were not our ancestors. Our ancestors no doubt learned from their unfortunate example, however, and the observations they passed along have become the received wisdom of later generations: don’t drink that, don’t stick that up your tookus….
But some of those things caused our ancestors to see the world in ways they might otherwise never have discovered, and to interact with it in ways that could not have been foreseen. Here’s an example: about 23,000 years ago, at the height of the last of the Pleistocene glaciations, there were modern humans living along the Atlantic seacoast in southern Europe – I’m talking about the Solutrean culture. If there’s ice year-round only a few hundred miles north of you, that means you’re living in a climate that’s similar to what present-day denizens of Wasilla, Alaska enjoy. People could live on the coast during the summer – and we have ample evidence that they did, and that one of their main sources of protein was fish. But it’s too cold to live there during the winter, so you go inland and upland and take advantage of the karst features. In nearby regions in what are now France and Spain, people weathered over in the limestone caves, taking with them whatever they could hoard over the course of the summer: dried fish, fruits, nuts, berries, tubers… and of course they supplemented their diet with whatever grows in the perpetual darkness of caves, in that growth medium so generously provided by roosting bats.
We all know what that is, right? Et voilà! – art is born! You know the art I’m talking about: art so extraordinary that it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; the splendid cave paintings associated with such place names as Lascaux, Chauvet and Altamira. Do you imagine for a moment that there’s no connection between magic mushrooms and the birth of art? And can you think of any better event to fix as the watershed between being merely anatomically modern and being behaviorally modern, than the birth of art in a particular culture? The birth of art and the birth of truly modern humanity are two names for the same thing. I suspect that Mother Nature’s natural pharmacy has had much to do with the blossoming of human creativity. Please understand that I’m not fixing the birth of modern humanity at the birth of art in any one particular place: it happened at many different times and in many different places, and is in some sense an ongoing process. There’s a reason that the most fantastic symphonies – and I mean that literally – were written during the Nineteenth Century, when virtually every major European artist was coked to the gills on opium (which was perfectly legal and not overly expensive). Continue reading “Seeing God at the Bottom of a Water Bong”
In the course of a recent exchange with a Young-Earth Creationist, I was accused of dodging what my interlocutor imagined to be “the hard questions,” all of which were pretty much on the level of Bill O’Reilly’s “OK, smart guy, how’d the moon get there?” His rapid-fire questions basically took the form, “If there’s no God, why do we see something instead of nothing?” They boiled down to the ontological difficulties concerning the origin of the universe and the origin of life, both of which (of course!) he imagined to be inadequately addressed by “evolution.” No surprises there, right?
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard those objections raised by some close-minded troglodyte who had no intention of paying any attention whatsoever to any answer that involved more syllables than “God did it,” I’d be a very wealthy man by now. As any honest person recognizes, there’s still a lot to learn about the origin of the universe and of life. There’s still a lot to learn about evolution, for that matter, which is why the relatively new science of EvoDevo is so exciting: it’s starting to furnish some answers to some longstanding puzzles. But it will inevitably raise other questions, a prospect that is troubling only to a person with no native curiosity and a deep-seated need for “the sure thing.”
I think maybe it’s time to turn the tables on people who raise what they imagine to be unanswerable questions (and who, in raising them, show no sign of actually being interested in answers, but raise them rhetorically, as a “gotcha” device). My motive in doing this is to try to get Christian fundamentalists to see just how ridiculous their “questions” are. Let me counter with a few nagging theological questions. Let’s see if I can get some straight answers from fundamentalist Christians, who seem to be so damn sure that their “holy book” has all the answers we need to all the questions that are worth asking. Turns out, the Blessed Old Leather-Bound Bible leaves quite a few things unexplained.
An argument made consistently for the existence of God, and consequently against the scientific, agnostic, or atheistic position, is that evolution is a false theory. I have heard noodly logic and word soup at every level of this claim from “It is completely impossible,” to, “There is no evidence,” to, “There has been microevolution but not macro evolution,” and finally, “There are no transitional fossils.” (Coincidentally, this particular claim frequently comes from people who have never looked for them and stare blankly when you mention Archaeopteryx).
I mention these a priori because I wish to concentrate on a specific time scale or event that widely solidifies faith and belief for some people. The birth of a child is regularly used as evidence of the gift of creation, the hand of God, or a miracle – that biological materials from two separate animals can combine to create a wholly independent (in time) creature. I’ve chosen those nouns intentionally to include the entirety of birth in the animal kingdom, of which we are a part and not the top as we are frequently reminded by microorganisms (quite a limited dominion over all, but I digress).
Yes, that is my actual baby. Visualized in real time with the help of science, physics, and a willing female human.
Now, onto the meaning of that title. “An atheist participates in evolution” does not really imply anything, as I would simply wager the number of people who accept the concept of atheism over agnosticism and theism probably agree that we are all quite eagerly participating in evolution. But in this case, I have a more playful meaning. I have recently created a human inside my wife (I know that sounds strange but I think it is fun to say and read). We are expecting a little girl in mid October and this level of grown-up excitement is truly new to me. Continue reading “An Atheist Participates in Evolution”
Some of the great scientific discoveries have been syntheses that emerged more or less organically from the systematic crunching of a compendium of data accumulated over time. Plate tectonics furnishes an illustrative example: the Grand Unified Theory of Geology was made possible by a great many observations made over the course of a couple of centuries, some of them serendipitous (e.g. the discovery of deep-ocean trenches and mid-ocean ranges during the submarine era). Put enough data like that in a room with enough smart people and a really big idea is sooner or later going to take shape, in a manner that kind of resembles abiogenesis.
Others have been leaps of pure intuition so striking as to seem truly original. One of them is Darwin’s theory of evolution. I wish I could have seen the look on his face when the idea of speciation driven by natural selection occurred to him. That’s got to have been one of the greatest OMG moments in history. It must damn dear have stopped his heart: imagine having a single insight that explains everything you’re interested in! He must immediately have recognized how revolutionary an idea that was, and how much resistance and rancor it would incur. No wonder he sat on the idea for two decades before going to press with it – and even then, only out of concern of having his thunder stolen. Continue reading “Dreaming of Darwin: Fundamentalist Night Terrors”
A lottery winner of the standard six ball setup wins against the odds of one in 14,000,000. A last minute decision to play followed by the knowledge that your numbers beat every other ticket in the nation is rather overwhelming.
I would imagine…
More often than not winners thank God. Rightly so? Looking at the above stat it isn’t hard to feel a certain priveledge has been granted. When something out of the ordinary impacts our lives we can’t help but evaluate the incredible odds against us that we seemingly defied.
Two terrorists attempted to murder a group of Texans for carrying out free speech, I’ll give you -4 seconds to guess which religion they followed … It begins with I.
The event was held by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), which among other things offered a $10,000 prize for the best caricature of the prophet. Two radical Muslims seemed unhappy at the offensive nature of the event & planned to crash the gathering and kill, it would seem, anyone they could. Don’t worry, the fun is on its way.
Normally when discussing such events humor is void due to a high death toll of innocent people, thankfully the only people dead are the terrorists, in fact of the two hundred people present at the event, none were harmed – therefore I find humor necessary. Continue reading “Texas 2 – Islamic Terrorists 0”
My name is Spartacus, I have one brother left named Titus, and one Sister named Bee-lac-eh who is very sexy, I think she and Titus are intimate. My other brother The Douche (our staff called him “Il Duce” after someone famous) has gone, we know not where. I miss him. We are not Gods, my staff and I, Fran and Gerry, are also Atheists; they do our bidding, they treat us like gods. I don‘t know why but I like it, and the following is my story .
I was born in the Summer. I have seen eight moons and many suns. I have felt the warm sun and the bitter cold. We live in a country called Canada (I think it means Land of The Bitter Cold) this I will explain later on. I said I am an atheist, but I do believe in dogs, they are real and they are evil bastards. My brother and I think they killed our other brother, but we have no proof. I find it interesting that Dog spelled backwards is God, he must be an evil bastard too. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a bastard per say, I’m one. My mom was the purest Black and had the softest fur but when we left our home in the shed next door we said goodbye with no intentions of returning. Both Titus and I bunked with a commune in the Big Barn across the way. There is plenty of room there and lots of sex, I mean lots and lots of sex. Titus is addicted. I never knew my dad, he or they (my mom was a bit of a slut) left before we were born, I suspect I will do the same. It’s our way. Continue reading “The Tale of Spartacus”
“A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP”
The death of Leonard Nimoy did not go unnoticed, as any even passing perusal of social media would have noted Friday and through the weekend. The above quote, his last tweet, could not be surpassed in encapsulating his life, were thousands more words added on. Like any memory, what Nimoy achieved says as much about those he touched as the man who lived.
Star Trek, both in television and in film, has in its many forms, sparked the imagination and wonder of countless people. That flame lit so many fires of the human spirit with the pursuit of an unabashed narrative of scientific discovery and the hopeful future of a humanity dedicated to peaceful exploration. Any violence, certainly at times heavy-handed, seemed always to remind us that the search for truth and the awe of discovery is always tempered by the acknowledged destruction of preconceived notions, not least of which concern ourselves as individuals and a species.
Everything from the leaflet will be typed in italics. How do you view the future?Will our world…
stay the same?
Well already we don’t have much of a choice do we? My first reaction, if this had been spoken at the door, or I mean to say if they were unlucky enough to have me greet them at my door, would be “why is it any of your concern what my view of the future is?” Regardless of my rudeness, I can see why they point towards the future to get followers. As I have been known to say, if the human race had found a cure for death, or no fear of it, religion would become obsolete. It is our fundamental flaw of fear (poetic no?) which the religious plays upon. I don’t fear hell as I know it is fiction, it holds no weight with me. I fear death in a normal sense: missing loved ones, them missing me, having to leave once the party is still going on, knowing I will miss the next Batman movie etc. I do not fear death enough to make believe I will attend a theme park afterwards, which will be even better than this life. My fear isn’t strong enough to make me deluded or irrational. So using peoples’ fear of the future is a cheap tactic of the shameless.