Tag Archive | "evolution"

Lab Letters Issue #12: Soft Robots, Super Rice, and a Wet Towel in Space


It’s that time again – the time for your weekly science updates. This is Lab Letters. Let’s go!

 

Hello doggie! An example of an evolved soft robot, showing natural-looking body structure and gait. The red and green blocks represent muscle-like materials. (Not shown: dark blue blocks represent bone, light blue blocks represent soft support/tissue) (source: Cheney, MacCurdy, Clune, & Lipson, Cornell/University of Wyoming)

Robot Evolution

Studying the evolution of a species can get tricky. There’s a lot of observing, measuring, cataloguing, sample collecting, testing, and waiting – especially for organisms that take a long time to mature. So a team of engineers at Cornell University in New York presumably just said, “Y’know what, evolutionary biology? We’ll just build our own organisms! With cubes and stuff!” That’s exactly what they did. Using a compositional pattern-producing network (CPPN), they built up block shaped robots consisting of 4 types of materials: bone, tissue, and two types of muscles. Then they laid down one rule: faster robots have more offspring. Then they let the simulation run. Here’s what happened:

So far, I’ve been able to make out a galloping sofa and a drunk goat. What do you see?

 

 

It’s alive! (1) Orysza sativa variety IR56 grown on normal soil (2) IR56 grown on salty soil (3) Oryza coarctata grown on salty soil (4) IR56 and O. coarctata’s first and second generation offspring, grown on salty soil. IRRI scientists hope to make this supercrop available to farmers in 4 to 5 years. (source: Jena/irri.org)

IRRI breeds super crop

Don’t you just hate it when the Assyrian army marches into your city, burns your houses, kills your babies, enslaves you and your buddies, and then, just to make sure you’re completely screwed over, salts your land so that nothing can ever grow again? Well! Those Assyrians shouldn’t be so smug! The International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños has announced the successful production of a rice strain that can tolerate high amounts of salt in the soil. This new strain capable of tolerating twice as much salt as its predecessor was made by crossing two very genetically different rice species. The exotic wild rice O. coarctata can tolerate salt levels comparable to seawater, but isn’t edible. Meanwhile, O. sativa variety IR56 is a cultivated and edible species. Sounds easy? Out of 34,000 crosses, only three embryos were rescued, and only one embryo actually started growing.

 

The most massively useful thing an astronaut can have

Commander Chris Hadfield of the International Space Station has been busy showing us Earth-bound humans how astronauts live (eat, exercise, sleep, cry, pee) in space. In this video, he performs a simple experiment: what happens when you wring a wet towel in space?

Magic happens.

The experiment was actually conceptualized by two grade 10 students in Nova Scotia, Canada, using items that are readily available in the ship.

 

And finally…

Happy Earth Day! Here’s a picture showing the Earth, as seen from outer space. That there is the reusable Dragon spacecraft docked to the International Space Station.

 

Tweeted by SpaceX

 

That’s it for today, see you next time here on FF Lab Letters!

 

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Darwin Date, Feb 16, 2 PM, at 121 Grille


During Valentine’s season, only the strongest and fittest survive. So, the Filipino Freethinkers have decided to celebrate the Darwinian aspects of love, relationships, and sexy times (and the awesomeness that is Darwin and his famed theory of evolution) in the very first Darwin Date!

Join us for four cool talks and a very special sexual selection dating game, where you can find the kind of lover you’ve evolved to be perfect for! Are you ready to adapt to our awesomeness? It’s absolutely free, and absolutely anyone can come–no matter your relationship status, or how evolved you are as a living thing! See you on the 16th, sexy beasts!

RSVP here: https://www.facebook.com/events/264120553721999/

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Evolution is Not a Religious Issue


It really irks me that more than one person has tried to disprove evolution to me as soon as I reveal to them that I am an atheist, as if evolution were the reason for my disbelief. People would soon begin spouting nonsense, citing “scientific” articles that they’ve never read, and asking me to view religious propaganda masquerading as legitimate documentaries.

I have had my fair share of creationist indoctrination even during my childhood. One of my earliest recollections of the concept of evolution, if not the earliest, was when I was still about 4 years old. I remember telling my mother that I wanted to be a scientist. She asked me in return if I would still want to be one even though scientists believe that we came from monkeys. She then asked me the very common (and stupid) creationist fallacy, “If evolution is true, why haven’t the monkeys today turned into men?”

To the unsuspecting child, this empty argument would have effectively put the nail through the coffin of evolution. Sadly, this seems to be the case in the Philippines, where the pseudoscience of creationism and misconceptions of evolution are accepted and even embraced by religious and scientific authorities. People in highly influential positions such as parents, teachers, and clerics, whom other people (most especially children) look up to as sources of truth, continue to preach against evolution while hardly knowing anything about it. In most cases, arguments against evolution revolve around citing Bible verses or attacking straw man versions of the theory.

Our current demography

According to the 2000 census, Roman Catholics made up 80.9% of the Philippine population while Muslims comprised 5%, Evangelicals 2.8%, Iglesia ni Cristo 2.3%; Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses comprise 1.3%. [1]

Thankfully, the Catholic Church is more liberal in saying that evolution is compatible with Christianity. In a statement made by the Vatican on February 2009, they further claimed that the concept of evolution predates Darwin, and the concept can be traced to St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. More than 50 years ago, Pope Pius himself said that evolution is a valid scientific approach to understanding the development of humanity. [2] This makes me wonder though why, despite the Philippines being almost 81% Catholic, evolution denial is still prevalent among Filipinos.

From my experience, evolution is still treated, even within academic circles, as a scientific principle that can be reasonably doubted. What saddens me the most is the fact that I personally know biology students, graduates, and even teachers who, while seemingly versed in evolutionary biology, continue to dismiss it as false. Equally sad is how many science majors I know repudiate evolution for being “just a theory.” The fact that grossly unscientific ideas like creationism continue to permeate the academe, and that people who are products of our country’s so-called “premier university” keep on spouting nonsense against evolution, makes me seriously doubt the effectiveness of our system of science education.

Evangelicals (also known as born-agains) and Muslims are divided on the matter. However, both the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Seventh-Day Adventists are clear on their position against evolution. [3] [4] The controversial Members’ Church of God International (colloquially known by their TV and radio show, Ang Dating Daan) has a creationist stance as well. Eliseo Soriano, its leader, stated: [5]

“To believe in the theory of evolution is to believe in accidents, for the theory of evolution can only be explained by accidents that allegedly happened in nature, and perhaps in the brains and minds of evolutionists!”

the ever-savvy Soriano

Clarifying some misconceptions

“According to Darwin, man was not created by God.”

The previous statement came from a history book written by Gregorio Zaide that is widely circulated among elementary schools in the Philippines. [6] Yes, you heard me right. That’s the famous Filipino historian Zaide right there. More of his religious zealotry can be found in the book and this blog article [7] written by a fellow freethinker.

It is a blatant misquotation of Charles Darwin, whose 1859 On the Origin of Species kickstarted revolutionary advancements in evolutionary biology and science, in general. While Darwin eventually professed deism and agnosticism, he never became an atheist. [8] As a biographer of Darwin puts, “one point is abundantly clear, all the surviving evidence contradicts the assertion that Darwin was an atheist.” [9]

“It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist & an evolutionist. … I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.” —Charles Darwin in his letter to John Fordyce, 7 May 1879 [10]

“Lenin is quoted as saying that religion is the opiate of the people, but the truth is that evolution is the opiate of the atheists!”

The quotation came from an article published by The Church of God International (Philippines) about evolution and their stand against it. [11] The Church of God, by the way, is affiliated with the producers of Armor of God, a TV show on GMA News TV. Just so you’d know.

Before I proceed on dispelling these obviously distorted straw men, let’s just get things straight. Vladimir Lenin, the Russian communist, did not make an opium metaphor. It was Karl Marx who said that “religion … is the opium of the people.” [12]

Both Lenin and Marx were atheists, communists and evolutionists. Now before you get into thinking that evolution is some propaganda by atheists and/or communists, like what this person in Answers in Genesis thinks, let me tell you: it’s not. Believing in evolution will not make you an atheist (or a communist).

Contrary to what Soriano thinks, evolution is not driven by accidents. Rather, it is driven by natural selection. Natural selection is the process by which certain individuals in a population survive or reproduce more because of certain variants of genes they possess. This eventually creates organisms which are better equipped for their environments as they out-reproduce the competition. Mutations give rise to new variations among genes, and are also subject to natural selection.

To demonstrate this point, I’ll give a common example: albinism, a condition in which the animal is unable to produce any skin pigments. The primary reason why albinism is so rare is that individuals with the condition are heavily pressured in nature not to survive. Albinos will be normally easier to spot for predators, and are usually unsuccessful in finding mates, and thus fail to pass on their albino genes.

Another example would be sickle-cell disease (SCD). Just like albinism, it is a very rare condition, and for a good reason; SCD brings about many life-threatening complications, shortening life expectancy to about 42-48 years. But here’s the catch. While SCD is a rarity elsewhere, it has a high rate of prevalence in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is because, in less severe cases, resistance to malaria is displayed by individuals with SCD. This is especially helpful if you’re living in a region where malaria is widespread.

In summary, traits are a result of a continuous non-random process where a species adapts to the pressures of its environment. It is not an accident why albinism is rare. It is not an accident why SCD is prevalent in some parts of Africa. Humanity is not an accident. We have our traits today because individuals who first had them found them an evolutionary advantage for survival against those who don’t have these traits.

It may appear that animals (including humans) are intelligently designed because they’re so adapted to their environments. This is but an illusion of a lengthy natural selection and evolutionary process.

Why is it so contentious?

I think the biggest reason it has been so contentious is that a lot of people think that evolution, just as what people in the Renaissance thought of heliocentrism, is a religious issue. Well, it’s not. The fact that evolution is true doesn’t disprove the existence of any god, just as proving that the Earth revolves around the Sun doesn’t. Disputing creationism (the antithesis of evolution) doesn’t mean that you reject believing in a god as well. In fact, you can still be an atheist and believe that life on Earth was mystically guided by, say, some flying spaghetti monster.

The need to teach evolution and real science

Having recognized the problems, why make a fuss out of it? Why do we need to teach evolution? Why can’t we teach creationism alongside evolution?

The answer is simple: we must teach evolution because it is what evidence-based science tells us to be true; teaching creationism would be a disservice to rationality. People advocating for teaching creationism at schools might as well advocate for equal teaching time for astrology and the horoscope in our astronomy classes, for magnetic therapy in our medicine classes, and for homeopathy in our pharmacy classes.

Our current state necessitates secularism as a tool for preventing unscientific ideas from penetrating society-at-large. We must never commit in our pursuit of equal representation and free speech a most grave fallacy—that all ideas are of equal value. The words of Isaac Asimov still ring true and remain as inspiring as it was more than 30 years ago: “The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

Evolution is a cornerstone of modern science. As biologist Richard Dawkins puts it, denying evolution is tantamount to denying the Holocaust. [13]

Now if creationists would just apply the same degree of skepticism to their religious beliefs, that would be really dandy.

 

Notes and references:

  1. Philippines. National Statistics Office. The Philippines in Figures 2010. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://www.census.gov.ph/data/publications/pif2012_in_CD.pdf >
  2. Irvine, Chris. “The Vatican claims Darwin’s theory of evolution is compatible with Christianity.” The Telegraph 11 Feb. 2009. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/4588289/The-Vatican-claims-Darwins-theory-of-evolution-is-compatible-with-Christianity.html >
  3. “Evolution is incompatible with Christianity.” Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. “Is Evolution Compatible with THE BIBLE?” The Watchtower 1 Jan. 2008. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://www.watchtower.org/e/20080101a/article_01.htm >
  4. “The Seventh-day Adventist Church affirms its belief in the biblical account of creation in contrast to an evolutionary explanation for the origin of living organisms and the relationship of humans to other life forms.” “Statement on Creation : The Bible’s Worldview.” Seventh-Day Church. General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 23 Jun. 2010. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://www.adventist.org/beliefs/statements/bible-worldview.html >
  5. “The Origin of Humankind.” Members’ Church of God International. Eliseo F. Soriano, 28 Feb. 2012. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://www.mcgi.org/en/topics/blog_articles/the_origin_of_humankind/ >
  6. Zaide, Gregorio F. World History in an Asian Setting. 1994. Quezon City, Philippines: Rex Printing Company, Inc., 2000. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://books.google.com.ph/books?id=Kq512SmGMIsC >
  7. The Filipino Freethinkers does not guarantee the veracity of any of the blog post’s claims.
  8. Lamoureux, Denis O. “Theological Insights from Darwin.” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 56.1 (2004): 2-9. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2004/PSCF3-04Lamoureux.pdf >
  9. “Was Charles Darwin an Atheist?” The Public Domain Review. John van Wyhe, 28 Jun. 2011. Web. Apr 6. 2012. <http://publicdomainreview.org/2011/06/28/was-charles-darwin-an-atheist/ >
  10. “Darwin to John Fordyce.” Darwin Correspondence Project. n.a., n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-12041 >
  11. “The theory of evolution remains unproved and unprovable. … Special creation is the more rational.” The Church of God International (Philippines). “Evolution: Fact or Fallacy?” 2002. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. < http://www.cgiphils.org/literature/pdf/evolution.pdf >
  12. Marx, Karl. Introduction. “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”. Deutsch–Französische Jahrbücher. Trans. Annette Jolin and Joseph O’Malley. Paris: 7 Feb. 1844. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/intro.htm >
  13. Rizvi, Ali A. “Are Evolution-Deniers any Different from Holocaust-Deniers, Birthers, or Truthers?” Hufftington Post 24 Sep. 2009. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ali-a-rizvi/are-evolution-deniers-any_b_295254.html >

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Beauty, Life, and Death through a Macro Lens: Is there an Intelligent Designer?


 

I’ve been dabbling in macro photography recently and it’s like having a new set of super eyes, one that allows you to appreciate the beauty of flowers and insects by seeing their vibrant colors and intricate eye patterns, like the weevil above and the fly below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Such beauty compels some people to conclude that there must be an Intelligent Designer, a Loving Creator who creates and sustains life. However, naturalists argue that it is the sun which is the ultimate sustainer of all life on earth. The sun makes the plants grow, and certain animals feed on them, like this bee sucking nectar from a flower.

 

 

 

 

 

Other animals prefer animals for food, like this spider waiting on another flower for a bee just like the one above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a colorful jumping spider. Handsome creature, isn’t it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does it look as beautiful now when it’s holding a small dragonfly in its jaws, paralyzing it with venom and slowly sucking the life out of it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is much debate about whether or not insects and even higher animals are capable of suffering pain from physical injury, e.g., being eaten alive, but even assuming that they don’t does not change the fact that certain lives must be ended in order to sustain other lives. That’s just the law of the jungle, the natural order of things – nature, red in tooth and claw – and it doesn’t look very lovingly designed at all. As Richard Dawkins observed in The Greatest Show On Earth,

If we are going to postulate the creator of the cheetah, he has evidently put every ounce of his designing expertise into the task of designing a superlative killer. But the very same designer has equally evidently strained every nerve to design a gazelle that is superbly equipped to escape from those very same cheetahs. For heaven’s sake, whose side is the designer on? Does the designer’s right hand not know what his left hand is doing? Is he a sadist who enjoys the spectator sport and is forever upping the ante on both sides to increase the thrill of the chase?

Now consider an artificial world inside a butterfly sanctuary, an environment tended by a Gardener who loves butterflies. The Gardener is not very powerful, but within his limited ability he provides a safe and abundant haven for the winged residents by putting a large screen dome to keep predatory birds out, removing spiders and their webs, planting different flowers, and even placing sliced peaches on a table for the butterflies to feast on all day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this butterfly-loving Gardener did not plant a forbidden flower anywhere in the garden, a flower that would cause the banishment of the butterflies that would feed on its nectar.

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Now contrast this garden world to the world we live in…

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All images by Jong Atmosfera

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Gonorrhea Takes Human DNA


Just in time for Valentine’s Day, researchers from Northwestern Medicine have discovered that the bacterium that causes the sexually transmitted infection of Gonorrhea, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, has taken up human DNA and incorporated it into its own genome. A gene sequence identical to an L1 DNA element found in Homo sapiens has been observed in Neisseria isolates from a laboratory in the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

CC BY-NA-SA Pembleton

Certain viruses readily insert their genes into their hosts. In fact, over 50% of our DNA came from viruses—a fact interesting enough on its own. Unlike viruses and their hosts, however, bacteria and complex multicellular organisms are not known to be able to trade genes. This discovery, led by postdoctoral fellow Mark Anderson, reveals an evolutionary mechanism previously unheard of. Bacteria are normally only capable of acquiring genes from other bacteria in a process of genetic recombination similar in some respects with a popular method of celebrating Valentine’s Day. In doing so, bacteria obtain novel genes from their bacterial neighbors, which, if fortunate enough, could aid in their adaptation to their environment. As to what Neisseria, a pathogen found only in humans, is doing with the genetic fragment that it took, that is still currently unknown.

The research, which was published in the journal mBio, goes to further show that species barriers aren’t as cut and dry as most people would like to think. What are commonly seen as boundaries between dogs and wolves, monkeys and men, aren’t clear and distinct. Evolution shows our kinship to even the simplest of organisms.

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Evolution-based morals? Don't pick up the soap!


So I seem to have opened up a can of worms when I tried to point out the absence of empirical evidence support on accounting morality to evolution propelled by natural selection at the Filipino Freethinkers site. One good thing out of allowing such a topic to be published in the Filipino Freethinkers site is that it brings opportunity to show the reading public that the site is not just an atheist or a militant atheist site. One bad thing about it is having “fans” or “stalkers” (depending on whether the person is good-looking or not). My understanding of evolution (and perhaps even science itself) may be frowned upon by some of my atheist friends and acquaintances there but that’s okay with me. If they think that I do not know anything about science or that my understanding of evolution and science is plagued with so “many errors” or “stupidity”, because uhm… well… my articles do not fit a certain framework of what they think science and evolution ought to be then there’s nothing I can do about such a sentiment. I certainly do not feel the necessity to prove to any “scientists” or “science teachers” there my science background. Besides, scientific grandstanding in order to bolster credibility when it comes to discussions touching on science is just so… well… not my style. 🙂

Anyway, marching onward…

I’ve encountered a few self-professed atheists in the past who account morality to evolution. For these folks, at least the ones I encountered, they do not subscribe to universal values and truth. Also for them, there is no objective truth. I guess it is perfectly understandable for the atheist position to reject objective truth. Bertrand Russell, author of the “Why I Am Not a Christian”, although known for his “philosophical agnosticism and practical atheism”, also contended that with God out of the picture, no other objective standard for morality (which he called “The Good”) could be found. J.L.Mackie, one of the greatest minds of atheism in recent times also admitted, in his book “Miracle of Theism”, that moral value is most unlikely without a God to ground it. He wrote that if there really is objective value, it would make God’s existence more probable than if there weren’t. He said this is a defensible argument from morality to the existence of God. Mackie rejected the notion of a universal value because as an atheist, well… he had to. He adopted the evolution-based morality model and believed that we all have the feeling, the sense, that there is objective value but that this is only a feeling developed over a long evolutionary process.

Perhaps there is more to evolution-based ethics than meets the eye. Let’s assess, shall we? However, before my atheist “fans” or “stalkers” go ballistic on me again for seemingly going against the choir, let me first state that this article does not intend to make any claims on the existence of an objective truth or value or even universal truth. It does, however, present some arguments against some questions we may have in mind. It also intends to incite critical thinking and assessments on what we may already adhere to and some ideas that the readers may consider under an open mind.

In our assessment, I would like to touch on something that I feel is important to the subject matter. Is there such a thing as a “universal value/morality/truth”?

I was once told that:

“Man has evolved in such a way that he relies less on his instincts (which have gone subterranean) and almost fully on his consciousness (his most fallible organ, if I may say so). Values are important for the enhancement of human life and culture, for creativity and creation. They are important for the enrichment of human life, that is why value-creation is one of mankind’s most wonderful activities and experiments.”

So our moral sense was basically a result of our value creation stemming from our evolutionary process for the enhancement of our lives. So if that is the case, does this make truth a creation of the mind? If we accept this, as well as the notion that truth is merely passed on from one generation of human beings to another, one could say that this truth must be nothing more than a human invention. It originated from humans and could have been thought up differently from the way it is. Like the idea that a red light means stop and a green light means go; humans invented that and could easily have reversed that if it was favored by the human mind. However, not all things we have learned from humans (e.g. our parents and ancestors) are human inventions that could have been different from what they are. There are some things that we learn from others that are not human inventions; humans teach them but we don’t necessarily invent them. They could not be different from what they are. Take for example, basic logical truths such as “a whole is greater than any of its parts” or “a thing cannot both exist and not exist in the same sense at the same time”. We learned these from our schools, our parents, other people; but it doesn’t follow that these people (or the people before them) invented these or that they could be different from what they are. We only recognize them as truths that exist apart from us and pass them along to other people.

The next question I have is: Is truth relative?

Before we get into this, I think it is important to distinguish two types of truths I have in mind. There is the objective/absolute truth and the subjective/relative truth. I think it is a mistake to think of truth as a case of “either/or”. Anyway, looking at relative truth, please have a look at Theodore Schick Jr.’s “Is Morality a Matter of Taste?” ( http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/schick_18_4.html )

Other types of Relativism can be seen in:  http://www.iep.utm.edu/c/cog-rel.htm

Now regarding absolutism, there are various kinds of absolutism as well. Most commonly, absolutism refers to the view that says, for example, that the government or the head of that government has complete rights and powers over the citizens. Absolutism also commonly refers to the belief that there are moral absolutes that are valid universally, and in the case of various denominations of Christianity, for example, that God is the ultimate moral authority. Thus, some or a good number of Christians, and Muslims I presume, are ethical absolutists, but may or may not be absolutists in other aspects.

Prof. LaFave offers several other types of absolutisms in http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/melchert.html

Anyway, I do not support the notion of absolute relativism that says there is no “objective reality”. I do, however, support the existence of both objective and subjective realities.

Examples of objective realities are “Airplanes exist in the world”, “I have used a computer in my life”, and “I am a human being”.

There are also subjective truths such as who is more beautiful–Ms. X or Ms. Y. These are value judgments, which depend upon the perceiver/interpreter. Such “truths” are more or less relative to the subject.

As for absolutist vs relativistic ethics I recommend you check the link below:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Value_pluralism

As you will read, rather than just opt for either relativistic or absolutist ethics, the link shows an alternative—value (ethical) pluralism.

Now we may ask: What about the different moral practices in the world? Doesn’t this prove ethical relativism?

I do agree that we see different moral practices by different cultures at different places. However, different moral practices do not necessarily contradict the notion of a universal truth. Anyway, given the differences in moral practices that we see in different societies, what is remarkable is not really how different these are but how similar they are. In fact what we do find are fundamental value systems around the world. But before anyone goes ballistic on me with that statement, I will try to explain what I mean.

If we take the UN Declaration of Human Rights that was drawn in 1948, as an example, we would recognize the demonstration of this fundamental similarity in value systems around the world. Human freedom, dignity, life, liberty, security, and many other things are said to be morally good. Racial and gender discrimination, slavery, arbitrary arrest, torture, all forms of degrading treatment and other acts are condemned. Some may say that the UN Declaration is relatively modern and it may have evolved through preceding generations. But as the English writer, C.S. Lewis’ compilation of a list of ancient moral codes, we see a highlight of fundamental similarities between them. The moral imperative against murder or cruel treatment of other human beings is found in the moral codes of the ancient Egyptians, Jews, Babylonians, Hindus, and Chinese. The command to honor and respect others is found in the moral codes of the ancient Hindus, Babylonians, Greeks, Jews, Egyptians, and Chinese. Values such as honesty, mercy and care are likewise found in a wide spectrum of ancient codes. I guess the point here is that despite the radically different conditions and situations we find people in, it is not the difference in moral practices that are remarkable, but the similarities.

Now, one may surely ask, “Ok, if there is indeed a universal truth (or value, if you will), and if people are truly guided by this set of objective and common moral principles, then how can different moral practices still exist?”

Well, it is one thing to recognize or know about an objective and universal moral standard, it is quite another to follow it. It is possible that when we find certain people who do things we condemn, they are acting in violation of moral standards that they recognize. But what about the societies that, without any remorse or any thought of wrongdoing, carry out practices that we condemn? A good example would be the classic case of the Eskimo societies recorded by anthropologists, as discussed in our Philosophy 101 courses. Anthropologists have found that in the past, infanticide was quite common amongst the Eskimos. They would leave their infant children out, to freeze to death. This was permitted by the parents and no social stigma was attached to it, yet we condemn this practice.

In assessing these kinds of things, I think it isn’t enough to ask what practices people do but also why they do it. We have to realize that a difference in moral practice may not always be because of a difference in moral principles held by the people. Different practices may be due to a difference in a group’s circumstances or conditions in life.

Considering the Eskimo example above on infanticide practice, people who hear of this practice may be quick to judge that Eskimos do not love their children as much as we do or that they do not have the same level of respect for human life as we do have. But if we ask the question why they did such things, we would see if they really love their children less than we do or whether they did have less respect for human life than we do. Perhaps this is just because they have different circumstances that forced them into such practice? Until we can answer that “why” question, we can’t really say for sure that they are following different moral values from ours.

The Eskimos in the anthropology study example lived in a harsh environment. Food was scarce in their region and mothers would often breastfeed their young much longer (up to 4 years). In addition, they were a nomadic people, unable to farm. They were always in a move to search for food. Infants had to be carried, and a mother could only carry one in her parka. In other words, these people lived on the margin of existence.

Let’s ask ourselves these questions:

1. What if I had more children than I could support?

2. What if I knew one was going to die because there simply was no way to keep that child alive?

3. What if neither I nor my community had the means to care for all my children?

4. What would we do in such situations?

Would we not search for the most painless way to bring about a child’s death because we do love our children? I think we might. That is what the Eskimos did, freezing to death, for them, is a relatively painless way to die. The child falls into a deep sleep and then dies in its sleep.

My main point is not that such practice is morally good but that it does not necessarily prove that the Eskimos held different moral values from what we hold. In other words, if we find ourselves in the same kind of situation as them, we would probably do the same. What we can learn from this is that infanticide did not signal a fundamentally different attitude toward children. Instead, we recognize that it was because of their love for their children and their respect for human life that they looked for the most painless way for them to die. So the question of “what” in differences in moral practices isn’t always sufficient, we also have to dig deeper and ask the “why” question.

Using another example, there are cultures in the world where it is believed that it is wrong to eat cows. This belief is held despite the hunger its people are suffering from. Such a society where killing cows is always wrong would appear to have different moral values from ours. It would appear that they have a greater respect for animal life than human life.

With a case like this, a person’s belief about reality makes a lot of difference. These people believe that after death, the souls of humans inhabit the bodies of cows. So a cow that we see may be our grandpa. But with this, can we really say that their moral values are really different from ours? No. The difference lies elsewhere. It is in our belief systems, not in our values. We both agree that we shouldn’t eat grandpa; we simply disagree whether or not the cow is or could be grandpa. The status of whether or not the cow is grandpa or could be grandpa does not have anything to do with morality.

So going back to the previous question on whether values such as moral values were invented for the enhancement of human life; if our moral convictions really do stem from the need to do whatever to promote the enhancement of human life, then shouldn’t we have the moral conviction to exterminate the sick, the aged, and the handicapped? I mean it may be said that these people do not really enhance one’s life. They can even be quite burdensome; they use up resources we need to survive. I don’t know up to what level these people contribute to the enhancement of our life but I’m guessing it may be minimal. So if we, as humans, are hard-wired to create values for the enhancement of our lives, then shouldn’t we then have a moral sense or sense of duty to get rid of anyone who hinders the enhancement of our lives? Shouldn’t we prohibit the (mentally) handicapped people from reproducing?

But we have not and do not regard these as our moral duty. In fact we have the opposite convictions. We would condemn anyone who did those and even thought about those things. If our evolution carried with our value creation activities for the enhancement of life, it doesn’t seem to support the human compassion for the sick, the aged, and the handicapped.

Now, we may also entertain the notion that morality is a necessity for the weak, that the compassion shown and given towards the weak makes life more pleasant for the weak and it would be nice for us all to know that we would receive that kindness too if we were in that position. However, this is not necessary if we go by the purpose of morality as an enhancement for human living. If it were only for human life enhancement, we’re actually better off without that kind of compassion. All those resources, funds, and energy would be freed up for use by the healthy ones. But as indicated before, this is not our attitude. We actually regard it as good to use resources to care for the weak. We do this even when the people concerned would not contribute to the enhancement of our lives; such as the comatose, the mentally handicapped, and others. And even if we decide to let the person die rather than prolong his or her life through extraordinary means, we do this with great reluctance and a deep “soul-searching”. There seems to be nothing in the evolutionary explanation which can explain these strong moral sentiments.

Now, let’s set aside the previous questions and grant that the evolution model is the most plausible explanation for morality. The question now is: “Can we condemn anything via evolutionary morality?”

Suppose aliens from Planet X came to Earth one day and interacted with us, would rape be wrong for them? Suppose that the aliens have an entirely different evolutionary history from ours, wouldn’t it be conceivable that rape would not necessarily be wrong for them? If rape is wrong for us humans, we cannot just say that rape must be wrong for the aliens as well if they have a different evolutionary history. On the evolutionary model, we cannot assume that the aliens’ morality would be like ours. It would depend on how their evolutionary process went.

Suppose that these aliens can have sex with us, how should they act towards us? Suppose they decide to begin raping humans at will and suppose we complain that rape is wrong and that they should stop, they would have a ready response to us by saying “Your morality is just a product of your evolutionary process. They are only like your other adaptations. Any other meaning is an illusion. It doesn’t affect us”.

If morality were strictly an evolutionary product, they would be correct. If morality is only an evolutionary product, then acts like rape would not really be wrong, we just have the conviction, the feeling, the emotion that say that it is wrong. So in the case of the alien rapists, they would be fully justified and we would have nothing to say to them. So with evolutionary morality, it appears that there is no basis for condemning such acts. On the evolutionary model, acts such as rape are no more wrong for us than they are for the aliens. The fact that we are humans does not make an act any more wrong in itself. It just means that we happen to have the feeling or emotion that it is wrong because of our evolutionary development.

Why shouldn’t we rape, and maim, and steal, and lie, and do anything else that we want to do? We may have a feeling that such acts are wrong but in the view of evolution, it is merely a biological adaptation passed onto us over millions of years. It’s a feeling, nothing more. There is no reason to regard any act as really right or wrong. In fact, on the evolutionary model, it may even be argued that rape is ethically good because it gives the rapist pleasure.

An evolution-based ethics, although interesting, I think has its share of flaws as well. It appears that there may be arguments worth considering that point towards universal values or truth. It appears that there may be arguments worth considering that point towards universal values or truths not necessarily having been invented or created by the human mind. Lastly, with an evolution-based ethics we may not be able to really condemn a morally reprehensible act because such an immoral act may be merely accounted to a feeling or emotion due to our evolutionary development. So if you’re abducted by aliens and sent to some alien prison out in galaxy XYZ… just make sure you don’t pick up the soap dropped by another alien inmate when you guys are in the shower. 🙂

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DISCLAIMER: Views expressed in this article represent the views of the author (hgamboa) and do not necessarily represent the editorial position of www.filipinofreethinkers.org.

Posted in PhilosophyComments (91)

Darwin's Missing Link


Since my political commentaries aren’t always publishable here at the Filipino Freethinkers site, I decided to just focus on themes that seem to be prevalent here such as Religion and Science. In a non-religionist environment “Evolution” is quite a popular topic to discuss. While I do not intend to join a choir singing praises to evolution I also do not intend to throw a monkey wrench into it. The purpose of this article is to critically analyze the pitfall of reductionist thinking when it comes to Evolution.

Did you guys know that, Charles Darwin – the father of evolution, shares the same birthday with me? Wow! Isn’t that something? I used to think that my birthday was quite special because every birthday I celebrate the whole United States of America celebrates it (Lincoln’s birthday) too! Now it is even more special because not only do I have Americans celebrating on my birthday, I also have all the Darwinian atheists in the world celebrating, as well. Quite a big deal, huh?

So in one of the godless groups I used to frequent, Darwin’s birthday was always celebrated. Take note that I said Darwin’s birthday was celebrated, not mine. No one in that godless group cared enough to greet me on my birthday, but that’s alright. I certainly am not holding it against President Barack Obama for not giving me a birthday greeting, as well.

Anyway, it is just very much expected to find a discussion on evolution and Charles Darwin in an atheist forum or atheist group. Of course, in an atheist group evolution is treated as some sort of dogma. No one can question it… evolution explains everything in our lives! To question evolution and sometimes even Charles Darwin himself is a heresy! If you are stupid enough to question evolution and Charles Darwin in an atheist forum, you might end up being branded as some sort of an idiot mystic who cannot think freely outside the box of religious credulity.

So what is so special about Darwin and Darwin’s “evolution” that seems to trigger some sort of a Cognitive Dissonance amongst some “atheists”?

I came across an assertion by a self-professed atheist that said Charles Darwin’s Evolution through Natural Selection also answers the “why” questions in life. These “why” questions, he said, were once solely under the affairs of religion. Darwin has shattered religion’s monopoly for the “how” questions and now we are told that it has the “why” questions covered, as well.

I have no problems when it comes to Evolution trumping religion when it comes to the “how” questions. But I would like to take a pause for a moment and think about whether I can jump in the bandwagon with atheists on the claim for the “why” questions. So I pondered on the question whether Evolution based on Natural Selection can really answer some of the “why” questions or more abstract questions in life. Was Charles Darwin able to answer the question why humans have morals?

In the investigation, it is important to have a clearly defined scope. The empirical data needs to be within the scope of interest, which is Evolution through Natural Selection. In light of that, we need to establish a definition of terms – what is Evolution and what is Natural Selection?

As I understand it, Evolution is a gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form. Natural Selection is the mechanism behind evolution and it is a theory of local adaptation to changing environments. Local environments change consistently. The Earth has become hotter and colder throughout time. Environments have become wetter and drier; grassy, more forested, more arid… etc. The empirical data we have certainly shows how different species have adopted to the changing environments. The evolutionary history of the elephant family gives a good insight for how natural selection worked. (Please see: http://elephant.elehost.com/About_Elephants/Stories/Evolution/evolution.html )

So in essence, evolution by natural selection tracks changing environments by differential preservation of organisms better designed to live in them.

Now, does Darwin have any empirical data that shows how the changing temperature throughout the planet’s history, for instance, has changed morality? Or why morality emerged from the change in our planet’s historical climate? Can fossils of Australopithecus afarensis and Homo habilis and Homo erectus and Homo sapiens sapiens be correlated to the changing climates from their respective periods for us to see why morality is what it is today? Does Darwin have empirical data to show that morality is directly proportional to natural selection from changing local environments?

Darwin indeed offered evidence that suggests Natural Selection as the basis for humans’ morality. In his book, “The Descent of Man”, Darwin discussed in chapter 5 of that book, the “Development of the Intellectual and Moral Faculties during Primeval and Civilised Times”. Here is the link to that chapter:

http://www.literature.org/authors/darwin-charles/the-descent-of-man/chapter-05.html

I do not see anywhere from the link above any empirical evidence to support Darwin’s claim of Natural Selection accounting for morality. The chapter, however, offers explanations and rationalizations, but no empirical data is presented.

As he described somewhere in the beginning of chapter 5, the lower animals must have their bodily structure modified in order to survive under greatly changed conditions. This certainly fits well within the scope of natural selection (which is the mechanism behind evolution and the theory of local adaptation to changing environments). This can be shown through fossil records. We have empirical data to support such claims by looking at the difference in skeletal structure of similar organisms from different places with different climates/conditions. That is fine and dandy. However, when it comes to morality, we do not see any data from him that shows how, say the change in climate, has triggered the formation or even refined our moral sense. Instead, he offers anthropological data to support his theory. But the anthropological data presented merely builds up his inferences. Testing the inferences is another story.

I am not suggesting that anthropological studies are worthless. However, I would caution about depending on mere anthropological data to readily conclude on something abstract. We see the value in taking a pause in making conclusions right away with critiques to Ruth Benedict’s Ethical Relativism defense using anthropological data. Our Philo 101 course has taught that lesson already.

Anyway, around the seventh paragraph, he avers to natural selection as “survival of the fittest”. He intimates that “survival of the fittest” points to reproductive success or success in the increase in population.

“Therefore, it hardly seems probable that the number of men gifted with such virtues, or that the standard of their excellence, could be increased through natural selection, that is, by the survival of the fittest; for we are not here speaking of one tribe being victorious over another.”

But how does Darwin define “fitness”? In the way he described it from his writing, it seems that he defines “fitness” in terms of survival success. So… the survival success of those who survive? Isn’t that a tautology? Sure, we can probably grant that tautologies sometimes are used for statement definitions ( e.g. “My father is a man.” ), but not as testable scientific statements – there can be nothing to test in a statement true by definition.

In the same book (The Descent of Man), Darwin also expressed his racism and sexism. Darwin argues that the male is an intrinsically more dominant figure than the woman. Darwin argues that because of the woman’s maternal instincts, women are more tender and selfless. But he also adds:

“It is generally admitted that with woman the powers of intuition, of rapid perception, and perhaps of imitation, are more strongly marked than in man; but some, at least, of these faculties are characteristic of lower races, and therefore of a past and lower state of civilization. The chief distinction in the intellectual powers of the two sexes is shewn by man’s attaining to a higher eminence, in whatever he takes up, than can woman – whether requiring deep thought, reason, or imagination, or merely the use of the senses and hands.” ( The Descent of Man, p. 576)

Does Darwin have available empirical evidence using natural selection (featuring changing environments) to support his claim of why men attain a higher eminence in pretty much everything… including intellectual powers?

I do not see anything that gives empirical and objective data to support Darwin’s conclusions. What we can see are mere rationalization that tries to fit all observable human behavior to the Natural Selection framework. Was Darwin able to rationalize how morals could cohesively fit into the Natural Selection framework? Perhaps. Was he able to empirically and objectively test it? Well… there appears to be no evidence for it (at least not in the link provided).

Sure, we may grant that Darwin, from his “The Descent of Man”, concluded that man’s morality stems from the development of social instincts through natural selection. Sure we may grant that Darwin suggested that men are superior over women from the same book. Sure we may also grant that Darwin did write that the characteristic advantages of women are characteristic of “lower races” and “lower state of civilization”. We may even grant his explanations to be plausible. But his empirical data to support his conclusions is another story. I don’t think Darwin’s words ought to be treated as inerrant nor sacred. But then again who the hell am I, huh? For “freethinking atheists”, I’m just a stupid idiot sophist mystic who cannot think freely outside the box of religious credulity.

If that’s not the case, I guess we can just think that we just need more empirical data to support Darwinian claims on abstract questions such as questions regarding morality. With this, I guess the quest for the “missing link” continues.

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DISCLAIMER: Views expressed in this article represent the views of the author (hgamboa) and do not necessarily represent the editorial position of www.filipinofreethinkers.org.

Posted in ScienceComments (35)

The Genetic Case Against God


Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gravitywave/7715395/

Upon the completion of the first draft of the Human Genome Project in 2000, United States President Bill Clinton called the three billion letters that compose the human genome “the language in which God created life.” Indeed, the head of the HGP, current director of the National Institutes of Health, and devout Christian Francis Collins alludes to genetics as the “language of God”—the same title of his book-length presentation of supposed evidence for Christianity—and “God’s instruction book”.1

If there was any branch of science that could have ever vindicated the doctrine of vitalism (the belief that something nonphysical is the force behind the phenomenon of life), it would have been molecular biology and its study of the genetic and chemical underpinnings of life. It would also have been the prime candidate for debunking On the Origin of Species, which was published a hundred years before Avery, McLeod, and McCarty provided Darwin’s theory with DNA as the hereditary unit of life2 and Watson and Crick discovered its double helical structure3. A failure of molecular biology to reflect the wastefulness of natural selection and its reliance on ad hoc solutions for survival would have been proof positive that a physical description of the basis of life is intrinsically impossible. If genes were found to be too complex to have been the product of simpler parents, materialism would instantly cease to be a viable perspective. Scientists would then be forced to let go of their naturalistic premises. And yet, with junk DNA4 and genes co-opted for other functions5, we clearly see the fingerprints not of an intelligent God that deftly sculpted life, but of random chance whittled down by billions of years of natural selection.

Unfortunately for the religious intelligentsia, materialistic biology has only brought the hammer down more strongly against metaphysical and supernatural conceptions of life and consciousness. This is not to say that the religious have not tried to put on the white coat and the credibility of science in a counterintuitive attempt at showing that their beliefs are based on evidence and not on faith claims. Science is currently being assailed by unscrupulous hucksters and obscurantists trying to peddle the Bronze Age hokum of the Bible as scientific—thinly disguised as nondenominational under “Intelligent Design.” Less delusional believers adeptly see through this canard and rely on the self-refuting “theistic evolution” to ease their doubts about Adam and Eve while paying lip service to scientific consensus.6 Today, the claim that life and the human mind has no basis on physical events and the neurophysiology of the brain, respectively, is on par with the belief that demons are the generative cause of epilepsy. In this stage of human scientific progress, it is safe to announce that vitalism and its variants are intellectually indefensible and thoroughly deserve the muffled laughs they elicit. Despite its use by respectable scientists such as Dr. Collins, the “language of God” metaphor used for DNA is no less ridiculous. And, as we shall see after an inventory of genes and genetic disorders, believers may want to refrain from implicating God as the writer of the mess we call the human genome.

After the sperm and egg meet

The development of a human embryo involves a complex interplay between the genes it inherits from the much obsessed about union of the 23 chromosomes of the father’s sperm and the 23 chromosomes of the mother’s egg.7 These genes direct the development of embryonic structures at specific points in time and in specific amounts. Any error in the process will derail the entire endeavor and will have catastrophic consequences. Now, it often escapes the religious mind how such an intricate crosstalk between genes could ever have arisen by itself without the forethought of a designer. Of course, as the watchmaker argument goes, this failure of imagination necessitates that God must have carefully designed each gene to turn on at the right time and at the right amounts in order to produce each one of God’s precious little children. As Rick Warren says, “[God] carefully mixed the DNA cocktail that created you.”8 However, a moment’s additional thinking will reveal the vacuity of such an argument. Alternatively, what will be revealed by a little critical thinking is that God is either inept or cruel.

Once the embryo develops into a child, is born, and the doctor hands off the child to the mother, the next step, after a well-deserved embrace, is to look over the child for obvious defects. The parents check if the child has all its toes, if its head is round, and if its face possesses all the standard features. Once inspection confirms a healthy child, the parents breathe a sigh of relief over their little bundle of joy. This image is the best-case scenario for expectant parents. This is what happens when everything goes well with the 46 chromosomes of the child. However, in spite of the omnipotence and goodness of God, the alternative happens a little too often for someone who doesn’t make mistakes.

As much as 20% of all recognized conceptions result in spontaneous abortion—also known as miscarriages.9 This number does not include women who never even knew they were pregnant. Miscarriages occur for many reasons. Some of these reasons are embryonic developmental problems such as those involving errors in the inheritance of parental DNA (e.g., missing chromosomes, embryonic fatal genetic mutations, etc.). These problems arise by sheer chance because of the nature of DNA. Right at the get go, God’s perfect design seems to fail at least 20% of the time, without discrimination. And since the Catholic Church claims that the soul enters the embryo at the point of conception, then the Church must concede that God is the most prolific mass murderer of all.

Divinely mandated seclusion

While miscarriages are horrifying for expectant mothers, there is at least a modicum of comfort to be had in knowing that the fetus, lacking the neurological structures, did not suffer its own death. If a random mutation is lucky (or unlucky, as the case may be) enough to cross the threshold of birth, a human child with a functioning capacity for suffering will be involved in its ravages.

Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) is a genetic disease that is caused by various mutations, one of which involves the mutation of a gene on the X chromosome that codes for a protein that recognizes cell signals.10 Having this variant of SCID means that mothers that carry this mutation will pass it on to 50% of their offspring, since females carry two X chromosomes. Because of the two X chromosomes of females, they are unaffected by the disease since the defective copy on one X is compensated for by a working copy on the other. Therefore, the mutation is recessive, which means that since males only carry one X chromosome, males will have no functioning copy of the gene and will absolutely have the disease, regardless of environmental situation. The result is that the child with these genetic errors will have such a crippled immune system that he will need to live in an aseptic plastic bubble for all of his brief years on God’s green Earth. He will never even feel the touch of his mother’s uncovered skin until his body begins to fail catastrophically due to a chance infection and the sterile equipment that protects him is discarded as it will be of no use in a few minutes.

The curse of Huntington

 

Image credit: http://www.watchinghouse.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/househead5.jpg

Some genetic diseases remain benign until a certain point in adulthood. While many of these are largely environmentally determined such as heart disease and certain forms of cancer, some are completely deterministic. If you happen to have inherited a particular mutation in your huntingtin gene from your parents, there is no amount of vitamin C or exercise that will prevent you from becoming a quivering and demented shadow of your former self. This is Huntington’s chorea, a neurodegenerative disorder that affects adults at around 35 years of age. If it sounds familiar, it may be because the character Olivia Wilde plays on House has it. Huntington’s is caused by several repetitions of a DNA base triplet of CAG in the huntingtin gene. The more CAG repeats in your copy of huntingtin, the earlier the devastating effects of Huntington’s will be for you.11 You just need one disordered copy of the gene since the disease is dominant. This means that carriers of the mutated gene have a 50/50 chance of passing on their dreadful disease to their children. Many people who have a history of Huntington’s in the family opt not to be tested for the gene. Since there is no cure for the disease, many people would rather not have a ticking time bomb alert them of their guaranteed dementia and prefer to live in ignorance until the symptoms finally kick in.

This is but a sampling of the horrific genetic mishaps that follow the indifferent laws of statistics. They affect the lives of conscious creatures through no fault of anyone but chance. There are about 25,000 genes in the human genome.12 All of them are subject to mutation and failure. Most mutations are fatal; a tiny few are beneficial. This is the raw material in which evolution works.  This is how cruel natural selection is. The facts can’t be ignored by anyone defending the Christian idea of God. It takes a colossal amount of callousness to square evolution with a benevolent Creator. It takes an even greater amount of doublethink to use genetics as evidence for a loving God.

References

1 Collins, F. S. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.  109 (Free Press, 2006).

2 Avery, O. T., MacLeod, C. M. & McCarty, M. Studies on the Chemical Nature of the Substance Inducing Transformation of Pneumococcal Types: Induction of Transformation by a Desoxyribonucleic Acid Fraction Isolated from Pneumococcus Type III. Journal of Experimental Medicine 79, 137-158 (1944).

3 Watson, J. D. & Crick, F. A structure for deoxyribose nucleic acid. Nature 171, 737-738 (1954).

4 Ohno, S. So much ‘junk’ DNA in our genome. Evolution of Genetic Systems 23, 366-370 (1972).

5 Fraser, G. J. et al. An Ancient Gene Network Is Co-opted for Teeth on Old and New Jaws. PLoS Biology 7, e1000031 (2009).

6 Trese, L. J. The Faith Explained.  50-52 (Sinag-Tala Publishers, Inc., 2003).

7 Gilbert, S. F. Developmental Biology.  (Sinauer Associates, 2000).

8 Warren, R. The Purpose-Driven Life.  235 (OMF Literature Inc., 2001).

9 Griebel, C. P., Halvorsen, J., Golemon, T. B. & Day, A. A. Management of spontaneous abortion. American Family Physician 72, 1243-1250 (2005).

10 Davis, J. & Puck, J. X-Linked Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/bookshelf/br.fcgi?book=gene&part=x-scid> (2003).

11 Watson, J. D. DNA: The Secret of Life.  323-324 (Arrow Books, 2003).

12 ibid., p. 201

Posted in Religion, ScienceComments (11)

The Hermit Crab – A Christian/Creationist Nightmare


Remember that issue about the banana as an atheist nightmare. Ray Comfort from “Way of the Master” uses a banana to prove that God exists which turns out to be a big joke.

It just proved that Mr.Comfort just don’t have the idea what a wild banana looks like. It’s interesting that Ray Comfort claimed that the modern banana was created by God. The banana was domesticated thousands of years ago, and the modern banana was created by humans via selective breeding and cultivation. The bright yellow bananas that we know today were discovered as a mutation from the plantain banana by a Jamaican, Jean Francois Poujot, in the year 1836. He found this hybrid mutation growing in his banana tree plantation with a sweet flavor and a yellow color—instead of green or red, and not requiring cooking like the plantain banana.

Now let us talk about the hermit crab (Elassochirus gilli). Hermit crabs (both marine and terrestrial) are members of the Phylum Arthropoda, Subpylum Crustacea, Order Decapoda. Unlike their crab cousins, these hermits have soft abdominal exoskeletons. Now here’s the problem.

Christian/Creationist like Mr. Ray Comfort argues that life came from a “Great Designer” – someone who can design Mr. Comfort’s banana.

And who is this banana designer? Why…it’s Mr. Ray Comfort’s God of course – the God that you can read in the pages of the Christian Bible.

Now according to the Genesis account, this God created all living creatures (Gen. 1:24) and this God is…ehem…perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4), making all his creations perfect. In fact, God pronounced it “very good”.

Let us go back to the hermit crabs situation. Since hermit crabs have soft bellies, they will not survive without having something hard to cover their bodies. That’s why they need empty univalve mollusks shells in order to live.

I have some hermit crabs for pet (both marine and terrestrial) and believe me, without a shell to cover their asses; hermit crabs would die in less than an hour. Some hermit crabs will even kill snails just to get hold of that precious shell.

So what happened?

It seems this “perfect god” forgot to give the poor ol’ hermit crab a shell.

If Christian/Creationist like Ray Comfort and ex-child star Kirk Cameron are right about their God creating every creature living in this planet, then looking at a hermit crab only confirms the notion that this Bible-based god is a dimwit.

What is the purpose of these shells-less creature if having no shell will endanger its survival? Where’s the perfect design on that?

Maybe Mr. Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron can provide us the answer using the power of the Holy Spirit…or…we can accept the fact that this Christian creation story is just a myth. There are no hermit crabs in the Judean desert and the writers of the Genesis myth are ignorant of the existence of such beautiful crustaceans.

Pinoy Atheist

Posted in ScienceComments (17)

Evolution discussed in the CBCP website


Whenever I visit the CBCP website I often find inspiration that would stimulate me to write an article for Filipino Freethinkers. Their infallible wisdom on matters of which they supposedly have no experience (e.g., sex, marriage, contraceptives, pregnancy and childbirth) never ceases to amaze me. This time, however, I wasn’t only inspired but also rather intrigued when I saw an old news article discussing the views of theology professor Robert John Russell on evolution in relation to atheism, and I couldn’t believe they actually posted it on their site.

Here are some excerpts:

He said if people want to “attack evolution they should do it in an intelligent way, not in an embarrassing way” by putting forth arguments that the scientific community addressed years ago.

Intelligent design, which accepts that life has evolved over eons but asserts that it is so complex that its development must have been guided by a supreme being or intelligent agent, or any other kind of interventionist theology “is really unethical” from a pastoral point of view, he said.

Proponents of intelligent design and creationism offer “a kind of fool’s gold” claiming they are the only ones who can keep God’s role in explaining the origins of life since “those nasty atheists have co-opted it” with the theory of evolution, he said.

While the Catholic Church claims that evolution doesn’t contradict the Bible, a quick look at the details of such claim exposes that what they are referring to may actually be intelligent design:

Citing various addresses from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, before and after his election as Pope, the Austrian cardinal explained that “there are many proofs in favor of evolution.”

Nevertheless, he stressed, “though this theory enriches our knowledge of life, it doesn’t respond to the great philosophical question: Where does everything come from and how did this everything take a path until coming to be man?”

Therefore, Cardinal Schönborn contended, the key is discovering “that a preceding idea exists, that man is not the fruit of chaos, but that he ‘has been thought of,’ ‘wanted’ and ‘loved'” by the Creator.

Going back to the CBCP news article on Russell, we see how he effectively criticizes intelligent design:

Unfortunately, he said, intelligent design and creationist proponents are not addressing the real problem evolution poses, which is how to explain the existence of suffering, disease, death and extinction before the historical event of the creation and fall of man.

The fall represents the first act of disobedience of Adam and Eve whereby humankind lost its primal innocence and happiness and entered into its present condition of sin and suffering.

But evolution demonstrates that suffering and death are not the consequence of the fall, but were part of life “far before humanity came onto the scene and is in fact a part of how we got here,” he said.

How to account for the problem of why God would allow all his creatures to suffer is “the really hard challenge of evolution,” he said.

That seems to be a very solid argument against the existence of a loving creator put forth in a very clear and concise manner, and the fact that it can be found in the CBCP website makes it all the more interesting. Russell continues:

One response is that pain and suffering are a consequence of freedom, he said.

But while the father of a child lets her be free to run, fall and scrape her knee, if she were to pick up a gun and start playing with it, “I’d take that gun away,” he said.

How then does the heavenly Father allow the extent and horrendousness of suffering seen throughout the world and in history? he asked.

At this point one would expect Russell to say that the concept of a heavenly Father is simply irreconcilable with evolution, but then he surprises us:

The brutality Darwin witnesses in his studies of nature along with the tragic death of his 11-year-old daughter were two major circumstances that drove the Anglican scientist to abandon his faith in God, Russell said.

“But this doesn’t mean that his theories are atheistic,” he emphasized.

Almost everyone sees the same cruel world Darwin saw, but he “was tempted and his faith was challenged like mine is and yours is” in the face of seemingly inexplicable evil, he said.

“But we all have the same choice: to see (life) as meaningful or meaningless,” said Russell.

How could Russell, who was able to eloquently frame the problem of evil and suffering by posing implicative questions, propose that it still all boils down to our ‘choice’? Well it may be because he is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and the founder and director of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences that he cannot state outright his position, much less his apparent skepticism, on the Christian teaching of an all-powerful and loving god. More importantly, Russell only said that we have the choice “to see life as meaningful or meaningless”; he didn’t really indicate that such meaning was dependent on the existence of God.

Posted in ReligionComments (5)

Evolution: The Atheist’s Religion?!?


I’ve been posting on several discussion forums for a couple of years now, some of them have to do with atheism and non-belief, some are just regular hobby related forums (basketball, PC gaming, etc.). Every once in a while some believer will come barging in to the threads and start preaching their religion. As many of you would already know, any mention of atheism leads believers to talk about the Theory of Evolution.

One of my pet peeves is how Creationists claim that Evolution is not scientific; that it is somehow “evil” and that it goes against Christian teachings. In fact, they go about spreading lies and misinformation about it to such a degree that most people don’t understand what evolution really is anymore. It’s a sad fact that  less than half of Americans accept the fact of Evolution. Interestingly, according to this survey, a little over 60% of Pinoys accept evolution as fact. Perhaps it’s because Catholicism does not deny it. However, this may change soon as many American missionaries are more aggressively bringing their Fundamentalist brand of Christianity to our shores.

Here are some of the most common misconceptions being spread about Evolution:

Myth #1: Evolution teaches us that our ancestors were chimps! If you believe in Evolution, you believe your great great grandparents were chimps!


Answer: Wrong. We evolved from the same distant ancestor as chimps, not chimps directly. And in the broadest sense, we are related to chimps (We share more than 95% of our DNA with them). Monkeys are “cousins” of the Human species. But does that mean that WE are chimps ourselves? Of course not. We are human, our parents and grandparents are human, and so on and so forth for thousands of years back.

Myth #2: Evolution is EVIL-ution! Evolution preaches “survival of the fittest”, therefore it’s every man for himself!

Answer: Wrong. Evolution is a scientific theory. It explains how living things adapt to their environment. It does not make claims about morality, nor does it tell us what we should do with our lives. It explains how things are, not what it should be. Claiming that Evolution is wrong because it “teaches us to kill or be killed” is akin to saying that Gravity is wrong because it causes people to get hurt or killed from falling.

Myth #3: Evolution is “just a theory”.

Answer: In scientific terms, a “Theory” is not the same as the layman’s meaning of theory. What this myth is trying to say is that Evolution is just a” Hypothesis”. A Hypothesis is akin to an educated guess. For a Hypothesis to be promoted to a Scientific Theory, it must pass stringent scientific scrutiny, and must be well supported by evidence. Evolution has a mountainload of evidence supporting it, from across several scientific fields (Geology, Biology, Chemistry, Paleontology, etc). All it takes to destroy the Theory of Evolution is one single solid piece of evidence that goes against it. In the more than 150 years since Charles Darwin first published his book “Origin of Species”, none have come up.

Myth #4: Students are entitled to learn Creation as an alternative theory to Evolution. We must teach the controversy!


Answer: The first thing we must address here is that there is NO controversy (at least in the scientific world). Some scientists may disagree on some details, but there is no denying that Evolution is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community. 99.9% of scientists accept it as fact. Besides, if that is the stance they want to take, then we should teach other creation myths from other religions too. I’m willing to bet these Christian Fundamentalists will NOT allow that.

Secondly, Creation does NOT belong in the Science Class, simply because it is NOT science. Creationists are free to teach Creation in Religion Class where it belongs. It is an oft repeated lie that prayer is banned in public schools in the U.S. Students can pray all they want. What’s not allowed is school-sponsored prayer.

Myth #5: Evolution cannot explain how life began, therefore God must have done it!

Answer: Firstly, Evolution does not deal with how life began. That’s like blaming the washing machine for not keeping the lawn trimmed. Secondly, scientists already have a rough idea of how Abiogenesis occurred (nothing final and concrete, admittedly). Thirdly, just because we don’t know yet, doesn’t mean we will never know. And lastly, just because we don’t know how, doesn’t mean God did it. It only means we don’t know yet.

Myth #6: You cannot prove to me that God did not create us. Show me the proof!

Answer: It is almost impossible to prove a negative. As an exercise, please prove to me that fairies/Santa Claus/invisible magic dragons do not exist. You can’t, can you? Also, the burden of proof rests upon the claimant. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Creationists are the ones making the extraordinary claim, therefore, they must be the ones to provide solid proof. So far they have shown ZERO evidence.

And finally,

Myth #7: Evolution is the Atheist’s Religion!


Firstly, atheists HAVE NO RELIGION, that’s why we’re called atheists.

Secondly, just because you accept the fact of evolution doesn’t mean you’re an atheist. Plenty of believers have no trouble reconciling their beliefs with the fact of Evolution. Take Kenneth Miller and Francis Collins as examples of devoutly religious people who accept evolution. Evolution does NOT invalidate belief in a god in general. It only refutes the literal interpretation of Genesis in the Bible (or of any creation story of any religion).

Posted in Religion, ScienceComments (59)

Another ADD Atheist Bashing…Grow up.


Amateur (or should I say “immature) and defenders of certain Christian cults have a peculiar way of confronting the issues posted by atheists. Instead of proving atheism as an irrational position, they cater more on emotions and rely mostly on insults. Maybe they think that by doing those things atheism will just go away.

After their “sugo” posted two articles to confront his problems toward atheism, which failed miserably to prove his points, it’s the members (suckers) time to salvage what their “sugo” have failed to accomplish.

Meet josepherdon, a typical guy who fits the profile of a fanatic. To save his “sugo” for further embarrassment, he created a “blog” to discredit Filipino freethinkers and non-believers.

It’s quite obvious.The intellects talk about ideas while dull minds castigate people, which remind me of Philippine celebrity gossips in sleazy tabloids. Anyway, since this dullard is a master of abusive, profane and obscene slanders, it also reflects his state of mind.

I wasn’t planning to give any critique to this dolt’s article (that’s why it took a year or so before I’ve answered his rants), but as they say, “Evil triumphs when good men do nothing”.

Excuse me my dear readers if I didn’t gave any link to his blog. You see, I don’t intend to give him some free exchange link.

I understand this pathetic jerk for making his accusations and insults. Remember, he wanted desperately to please his cult master. Charles “Tex” Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Larry Layton have already done the same and look what it resulted so far.

You won’t really learn anything on something that was written from sheer hate. That’s a fact! So I am certain that I will not find even a morsel of enlightenment in his posts. But at least I’m offering the blogging world my free service by personally correcting some of josepherdon’s deliberate misinformation.

Ignorance in the Meaning of Religion

Atheism is a religion. Atheism requires faith. Atheism also requires a strong conviction.

Atheists deny that Atheism is a religion but it is clearly being displayed by Atheists in different Religious forums that Atheism is indeed their religion.

So he still define atheism as a religion. That’s means josepherdon still doesn’t even understand what religion means. Religion is suppose to be the “ultimate concern on our life”. Now, atheism is not a religion since it’s not saying anything that is ultimate regarding concerns on someone’s life. The rule is quite simple; atheism is about not believing in a supernatural being which people calls god or gods.

Let us continue…

Ignorance in the Meaning of “Faith”.

Most of the Atheists believes that their existence was not based on Creation. They strongly opposed it.Christians have faith. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 KJV)

Faith to things hoped for and the things that not seen.

Atheists also have faith. Atheists also believe in things that are not seen. Atheists also believe in things that are not yet scientifically proven.

Aw….I’m too tired of explaining faith in my blog. Now let see…if I don’t believe in Santa Clause or the Tooth Fairy, is that faith @ Mr. Joseph Perdon. Go figure it out…or maybe too much heavy metal rock music banging or squeeky anime on your brains eh?

Please naman po, tutal 30 years old na po kayo, eh pakilawakan po ng konti ang pang-unawa mo po.

I have this inkling that josepherdon doesn’t have any science background in his studies. Whether he made it on college or not – well, it seems he was not really been exposed to a lot of science subject, especially in biology and physics ( o baka naman natutulog sa library).

Now here’s some samples:

Ignorance in the Theory of Evolution

Missing Links in Theory of Evolution.
These links are yet to be found.No Scientific evidences of their existence.They believe that the link exists out there, it’s just they cannot find them.They treats Theory of Evolution as their doctrine of faithin spite of growing number of scientists are abandoning the theory.

Also considering the great minds of the science communityDID NOT even believed that the humanity came from apes. Sadly, Atheists are taking the Theory of Evolution really seriously.
What missing link? Evolutionist now adays are not looking to any “missing links”. My gulay naman @ Mr. Perdon, you’re so 1880’s hahaha!

Maybe you’re talking about transitional fossils? The term “missing link” po eh ginagamit ng mga taong naniniwala sa tinatawag na the great chain of being, a pre-evolutionary concept now abandoned. Transitional fossils are the fossils of transitional forms of life representing an evolutionary bridge between two recognized groups and I’m proud to say that the discoveries of these trasitional fossils have just proved Darwin’s theory is correct.

We now have hundreds or thousand transitional fossils available. Mr. Joseph Perdon, year 2010 na po tayo. There are many example of transitional fossils and all you have to do is to search the Internet (Remember, Google is your friend. Maybe you should use it to do some worth while research instead of looking for heavy metal bands and Japanese anime.).

Now you won’t find “great minds” saying that humans came from apes @ josepherdon. Ganito po yan, apes and humans comes from a common ancestor. Evolution doesn’t say that monkeys became human. It just say that homonids, simians and prosimians came from a common lineage. Great minds already knows the process and it seems that idea that monkeys or ape became humans only came from you and your “sugo’s” mind…which I don’t think to be great.

Now it’s your turn. maybe you can show as an evidence that human came from Adam and Eve for a change @ Mr. Joseph Perdon AKA josepherdon.

Ignorance in Cosmology

Missing Matter and Energy in Big Bang Theory.

There are still a lot of questions in the Big Bang Theory that needs to be answered.But still, Atheists believe them and holds the theory as true. A lot of things in the Big Bang Theory still needs scientific evidences. Like the mystery of the Dark Matter and Dark Energy.

“Every textbook in the planet earth,says that the universe is made out of atoms and sub-atomic particles.Well, all those textbooks are wrong”–theoretical physicist, Michio Kaku
Quote mining eh? OK let see…Dr. Michio Kaku is an American theoretical physicist specializing in string field theory. Do you know what is string field theory? String Field theory…wait…I thought you don’t believe in scientific theories? If you don’t believe in scientific theories they why are you quoting a theoretical physicist? Are you contradicting yourself @ Mr. Perdon? Nasa Bible ba ang String field theory?

Anyway, if you have some idea on what quantum physics is…well you will understand what the String Field Theory is all about. It is like this…it says that the most smallest thing in the universe (quarks, atoms, etc) and the vastness of the very large universe is connected like a string in a musical instrument. That’s String Field Theory in a nutshell for you @ josepherdon. Naiintidihan mo ba? Obviously you can’t understand what I’m talking about.

You know why?

Because you can’t even tell the difference between Big Bang and Dark Matter.

Combined, Dark Matter and Dark Energy make up 96% of the universe.(That’s a VERY BIG percentage for something you don’t have a scientific evidence)The problem is, Atheists have faith about these things.(96% of the Universe [r.e.bigbang theory] is not proven scientifically)

Science has do not directly proven the existence of Dark Matter.They are still guessing about what the Dark Matter and Dark Energy really are.

By the way, they say that the Dark Matter is an invisible matter. Yes, believing Big Bang Theory requires faith.Faith about those unanswered questions and mysteries about the universe(e.g. Dark Energy and Dark Matter)
Are you talking about the candy bar or the sitcom that was created by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady?

So what does Dark Matter has to do with the Big Bang? For your information, dark matter is the large invisible matter that composed most of the universe. The term “dark matter” was coined by Fritz Zwicky who discovered evidence for missing mass in galaxies in the 1930s.

Dark Matter is matter that is inferred to exist from gravitational effects on visible matter and background radiation, but is undetectable by emitted or scattered electromagnetic radiation and it is more important on the issue concerning state-of-the-art modeling of structure formation and galaxy evolution, and has measurable effects on the anisotropies observed in the cosmic microwave background.

So where’s the issue concerning the Big Bang?

Like The Theory of Evolution,Growing number of Scientists already abandoned the Big Bang theory just like the well-known scientists that believe that there is a God. If the scientific evidences about Big Bang Theory and Theory Of Evolution are really that great, How come that there are scientists have religion and believes in God? These Atheists are just hiding in the surface of science books which actually Scientists have already given up reading.

Like who? Can you please name names @ josepherdon.
Let see…according to the studies conducted by sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund, 38 persent of natural scientist doesn’t believe in God. In Edward J. Larson and Larry Witham studies they discovered that disbelief in God and immortality among NAS biological scientists was 65.2% and 69.0%, respectively, and among NAS physical scientists it was 79.0% and 76.3%. Most of the rest were agnostics on both issues, with few believers. (See: Victor Stenger’s excellent Has Science Found God? for more details)

Being an Atheist does not make you more intelligent than others

Ah so that’s his problem…Atheists appear more intelligent than him and his “sugo”. So that’s why he’s bitching in the World Wide Web.

Mr. Joseph Perdon. It’s not that atheist like me is more intelligent…nope. We just use our “coconut” more that you used yours. Remember, your mind is like a parachute, it is more useful when it is open.

Hmmmmm…I think josepherdon still has a lot to say…

I have talked, discuss and even debated with some self-centered Atheistang Pinoy and believe me, papansin lang sila. Tinatawag din nila ang mga sarili nila na THINKING PINOYS. As if, naman na sila lang ang nagiisip. They are just people wanting to be different from others. Oo nga naman, karamihan ng mga pinoy ay may religion at naniniwala sa Dios, kapag hindi ka nga naman naniwala sa Dios, instant attention nga naman yun. Pa-kontra-bida effect, pa-others, parang EMO, or talagang Pinoy EMO na nga talaga sila. At kapag naiipit na sila sa mga dahilan nila in denying GOD, they will demand respect. Ay teka,teka, magpapatawa pala muna sila, tapos aasarin ka. Kapag na-realize nilang hindi ka mabilis maasar or bumabalik na sa kanila yung mga pang-aasar nila, tsaka sila hihingi ng respeto sa paniniwala. Kung kakausapin mo sila ng masinsinan at napansin nilang may point ka, they will simply walk away at sasabihin nonsense makipag-usap sayo. “I am more intelligent than you”. Feeling of superiority from others. Pride.Yes, may pride nga ang mga Pinoy EMOs este Pinoy Atheists.

You see, after nilang ipagmalaki ang paniniwala nila, pagkatuwaan ang mga naniniwala sa Dios at naiipit na sila sa takbo ng utak nila, tsaka sila hihingi ng respeto. Believe me, iyan po ang pattern ng usapan ng mga Christians at Atheistang Pinoy. Kahit mapa-saan man yang forum, Friendster or else, they will try to impress you first with their different way of thinking, carabao-english and then asking for respect of their beliefs. Emong-emo di ba

Kakaunti lang naman ang mga Pinoy Atheists, este Freethinkers pala, este Pinoy EMOs pala.Kukunti lang silang naniniwala masyado sa sarili nila eh.Tinanong ko dati yung mga nakausap ko,Willing ba kayong ituro sa mga anak ninyo ang paniniwalang Atheista?Anong klaseng values ang ituturo ninyo sa mga anak ninyo?Willing ba kayong i-share sa mga kabataan at ilayo sa Dios ang mga kabataan?Anong klaseng sosyodad ang handa ninyong i-offer sa mga kababayan ninyo?Sosyodad na hindi naniniwala sa Dios?

Wala ka namang kabutihang mapapala sa pagiging atheista eh. Takbo ng buhay mo wala. Baka nga mayaman ka, baka nga may maganda kang trabaho pero after that wala na. Ang pagtulong sa kapwa tao ng mga atheista is pakitang tao lang, plastic. Bakit? Kung wala ngang Dios, ano ngayon ang difference ng paggawa ng mabuti sa paggawa ng masama? Kung mamamatay kang isang atheista na magnanakaw, pumapatay ng tao, o rapist, may difference ba?
Kung mamamatay kang isang atheista na feeling proud sa sarili?There’s no difference, walang LIFE AFTER DEATH eh.Logic lang naman ang kailangan eh, which is sad to say na wala ang mga atheista.

With the slow rise of Scientology wannabes, Atheists are endangered species.Actually, habang kumakaunti sila, lalong lalaki ulo ng mga yan. Feeling elite.Pa-others lang talaga. Feeling important. Feeling genio.The Big Bang Theory + Theory of Evolution = Existence of Atheists

So in the following statement that was written in the tagalog language (maybe because josepherdon ran out of English words…) he just started spilling his own viscera. Hmmmm….sa makatuwid eh sinuka na nya ang talagang sinisintir nya (He just vomited out his issues).

It’s quite obvious (base on his seethe) that he was crushed on a debate. We can perceive that on his writings. Now what happened here is that when this guy ran out of arguments, he started spewing venom.

He had this feeling (which really bothers him) that atheists are more superior in knowledge, ideas and arguments than his “sugo” and himself. Naturally the guy was hurt and he’s just licking his would like a dog and well…sour-graping.

Mr. Joseph Perdon AKA josepherdon, here’s my advice to you. If you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen. If you don’t have any logical arguments against atheism, then don’t debate. Also don’t dwell too much on fantasies. Please let us at least have a little honesty in our part – you never even tried facing us for a debate, so how can you defeat us? Seriously, you never posted any comment in the Filipino Freethinker Website and forum; you never posted any comment on my blog and even on my shout box. You don’t have any posts on the Pinoy Atheist Group in Friendster, Multiply and Facebook. Are you a phony just like your “sugo”?

Come on…give us the real deal here.

And what do the EMO and the Scientologist have to do with your beatings @ josepherdon? Bakit, wag mo naming sabihin sa akin na natalo ka ng EMO at ng isang scientologist sa debate?

Life after death? Philanthropy? My goodness is this a special pleading? Mr. Joseph Perdon, even without “dios” humans can still be good. Look at me; I can still do good things even if I don’t expect any life after death in heaven. Kaya mo ba yan o baka naman kaya ka gumagawa ng mabuti eh para mapunta ka sa langit?

Look, I know of a story of a man who believes in a “dios” and his followers claims he is a walking Bible encyclopedia yet still manage to raped a guy. Think about it.

Now we non-believers don’t believe in brainwashing and “indoctrination”. We don’t teach something, but strongly encouraged not to question or critically examine what you’ve been taught.

Diba you have indoctrination in your cult…este coordination centers pala @ josepherdon?

Ew….How repulsive…parang may sapilitang ipinapasok sa ulo mo. Only cults do that @ josepherdon.

In the issue of respect…well respect is earned @ josepherdon and it seems you and your “sugo” still have to work harder to attain it.

Oh and another thing, atheism is different with Scientology…wait a minute…don’t tell me you don’t know what Scientology is? Man…(lol)…Scientology is a religion that was created by L. Ron Hubbard that teaches people are immortal spiritual beings who have forgotten their true nature. Maybe you think that Scientology are people that worshipped science…hahahaha! Gosh, your lack of knowledge disturbs me. Mr. Joseph Perdon, John Travolta and Tom Cruise don’t worship science.

So instead of bitching here in the Internet and exposing your dirty underwear, why not work on your arguments and start focusing in reality. I would love to invite you on one of our meet-ups if you want. You could be one of our “special guess”.

Also, before you engage a debate with any member of the Filipino Freethinker or an atheist like me, please review the following subjects: Philosophy (especially logic), science, religion and in your case English Grammar. Review your subject-verb agreement.

And please: THINK FIRST BEFORE YOU WRITE!

Ay my papaya…as they say, to an ignoramus nothing is impossible.

Ciao!

Posted in Humor, Religion, Science, StoriesComments (26)

If There Was An Intelligent Designer


When observing the complex beauty of the natural world and the diversity of plants and animals and how each species’ characteristics seem perfectly tailored for a particular lifestyle, it is not difficult to jump into the conclusion that everything was designed.

I was staring at a small clover garden, admiring the structured leaf formation and how it uniformly blanketed the patch of ground when I realized that underneath the miniature canopy of clover crowns must be a thriving community of insects and other tiny creatures. And beneath the ground dozens of earthworms must be burrowing and ingesting dead matter and minute soil particles, aerating the earth and secreting humus and minerals needed by the clover plant to grow. At this point it makes sense to imagine that this nice little ecosystem must have been orchestrated by an intelligent and loving being.

However, also living underground are thousands of ants, and ants feed on earthworms. Anybody who has seen a live earthworm being attacked by red ants knows that it is a slow and very painful death, the worm writhing and rolling and curling in a feeble attempt to escape the tormenting mandibles that tear all over its soft flesh, each bite leaving behind a burning toxin. It must be one of the most excruciating deaths an animal can experience (although perhaps not as agonizingly slow as that of a caterpillar whose body is being leisurely devoured from the inside by a growing wasp larva). Even if one believes that earthworms have souls that will be eternally rewarded in Earthworm Heaven for all their sufferings under the earth, it is absurd to conceive of an intelligent designer.

A lot of people especially those living comfortably in civilized societies are not aware of this life and death struggle among the lower animals.  Most have not even considered that the burgers they’re munching came from a once-living cow whose throat was slit with a very sharp industrial blade, causing it to stumble and thrash around as its air sacs get filled with its own blood, flooding its lungs and simulating a slow drowning effect that would last several minutes until the cow finally expires. Or that the drumstick they’re nibbling came from a chicken who endured its entire short life in cramped captivity, injected with chemicals to speed up growth for early slaughter.

When you’re on top of the food chain (and blissfully oblivious to the great inconvenience you are causing those below), it is easy to be overwhelmed by a feeling of gratefulness, and there even seems to be an almost instinctive need to seek an object of gratitude. But imagine if we happened to be the cow or the chicken, or the earthworm for that matter. I wonder if gratefulness would come as naturally.

If there was an intelligent designer, animals wouldn’t have to feed on one another. Every creature would be responsible for its own photosynthesis and capable of absorbing moisture and minerals from the air. Predation and parasitism would be totally unnecessary. All animals would also be able to fly, swim, run and burrow, freely frolicking across the bounds of the earth, fully enjoying the planet’s blessings.

And maybe this is why a lot of people believe (or would like to believe) that we have a soul. Perhaps unconsciously we think of the spirit as the perfect form of existence, totally free and having no need for transport, shelter, clothing, air, water, or food. And no need for food means no need for other animals to die just so we can live. The earth would be a true paradise where no creature has to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. If there was an intelligent designer, existence wouldn’t be as cruel, and the struggle for life wouldn’t be as bloodthirsty.

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A Cynical View on Attraction


attractionI remember a Darwinian article in Time (Asia) Magazine’s special issue, The New Age of Discovery (January, 1998) because it tried to answer questions like why do we find certain human body figures sexy. It said that most men find a specific waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) of women sexy (now I won’t tell the exact figure to avoid causing unnecessary insecurities) because that ratio signals fertility. Men don’t consciously know this, but evolution somehow programmed it in our instincts to ensure the perpetuation of our genes.

In another article, I read about an experiment on human scent. It involved a certain number of men and an equal number of women. The men were made to shower using only unscented soap (no cologne or deodorant either) and sleep with a white shirt on. They would shower again on the second night but would wear the same shirt to bed. Then the shirts would be sniffed by the women, who would each try to determine which shirt smells the “sexiest”. After their genes were tested, it was found out that the sexiest scents for most of the women belonged to the men whose genes were very much dissimilar from theirs. Parents with diverse genes often bear stronger offspring, and once again evolution has hardwired this into our physiology to help us find a suitable mate – and perpetuate our genes.

But in this overpopulated modern society of ours, procreation is no longer the primary purpose of sex. In one of our joint articles, a fellow freethinker wrote:

Sex may lead to pro-creation but the two are still two totally distinct acts, no matter how much some belief systems may insist that they’re one and the same. When you start a fire, you aren’t obligated to go cook something. Sometimes, it’s enough just to enjoy the warmth of a blazing fire on a cold night. The same goes for sex. It’s a social activity and a recreational sport as well. From a liberal point of view, it’s not even that different from a couple going dancing (that’s why it’s also called the horizontal tango).

Still, our instincts kick in when a genetically suitable specimen from the opposite gender walks by even if having kids is the last thing on our minds. But as we get to know a person, after a while we get attracted to non-physical traits like kindness and a sense of humor. Perhaps we instinctively know that certain personal attributes are preferable for long-term companionship, especially when it comes to the point when procreation and even sex are no longer possible.

But the beauty of these personal qualities is that they can be enjoyed now as much as in the future. Being the most highly evolved among all creatures, humans interact in ways beyond touching and smelling. A nice conversation connects us more profoundly than two chimps grooming each other. Although touching is nice, it is often meaningless unless coupled with an emotional bond. And so while evolution already dictated what we should find physically attractive, it is our longing for a deeper connection that needs to be satisfied if we are to truly enjoy being human.

Happy Valentines everyone!

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