Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Clarifying "Theory"

This is something you probably hear a lot from Creationists: "Evolution isn't true because it's just a theory, even scientists don't know if it's fact." This is of course the result of a bad definition of what a scientific theory is. Without re-writing the entire page in the link with this post, a theory in science is the explanation that ties a group of facts together. A theory must be falsifiable, and it is something so reliant on well-known facts that it is widely accepted as truth. However theories do have a tendency to change, in very subtle and little bits at a time, so that the main idea remains intact but a few small tidbits might change based on new evidence. It's like when a person changes their socks, the different socks don't really affect how the person functions at all, we might not even notice the change without examining very carefully.

The definition of a theory in science always seems to baffle creationists and the like because they're trying to use the everyday definition of the word theory to disprove a scientific explanation for a set of facts. The theory of gravity explains why gravity happens and how it works, as does the theory of relativity. Any scientist will tell you that these theories have been proven true too many times to count. The theory of evolution is no different, we have plenty of evidence and facts to back it up and it can also be observed in such things as the evolution of HIV. So don't let creationists try to tell you evolution is just a guess and we don't really know how we got here, because we do know that evolution did happen, there's really no question about whether it happened or not we just continue to look at the other questions surrounding biological history, How? Why? When? Where? Etc.


Monday, April 7, 2008

Observable Evolution

In this post I'd like to cover something that is brought up a lot in debate between creationists and atheists. Creationists somehow have this delusion that if they can prove evolution to be false it will prove their religion to be true. Unfortunately I must tell these people that this is not the case. Just because we can't understand something does not mean simply that: "My God did it." By sitting back and claiming that everything we can't legitimately prove is a result of some divine being, we are committing intellectual suicide. What we need to be doing is what scientists are doing every day, examining the world critically, coming up with new ideas and theories as to how and why things are the way they are. Understanding the way everything works is the key to improving the quality of life, which is the ultimate goal for any species after survival and reproduction are achieved, is it not?

Something I hear from a lot of creationists is what I like to call the Pokémon Theory of Evolution or PToE. This mostly stems from, in my opinion, a complete ignorance on the subject of biology and the process of Natural Selection. Some people I think also are simply unable to grasp the concept of how old our planet is and how much time has passed to arrive with the current species and how specialized most of us have become. Creationists will say that we can't observe evolution, so what proof do we have that it even happened? Well we try to tell them the incredible amount of fossil evidence we have but a lot of times this is not refuting what they meant by not being able to observe evolution. What they think should happen is that a fish should be swimming along in a shallow pond and all of the sudden sprout some legs and lungs and start walking around on land the next day. This is why I like to call it the PToE, people think evolution should work the way it does in the popular game series.

It may seem like a simple concept to some, Natural Selection and why it makes sense. I just think that the problem is the concept of how much time has passed and how much time is needed for evolution to actually take place. It's not that evolution can be traced to a single event, evolution is happening constantly. It would be a ridiculous amount of work and probably couldn't even be done to monitor the evolution of a species but it is always happening in the genes. An excellent example of actually observable evolution is in the virus that causes AIDS, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The reason we can't fully cure HIV is because a single virus can spawn a billion copies every day. Combine the high rate of reproduction with the sloppy process of copying genetic material causing an excess of mutations and you have observable real-time evolution. While nearly all instances of HIV may be wiped out by one drug, there will inevitably be a few survivors with some immunity that are then reproducing, essentially evolving the virus quicker than we can cure it.

Hopefully this will give fellow atheists and evolutionists a nice edge in the never-ending and futile debate with creationists. I found the link fascinating and informative, some nice supplemental information about evolution and HIV.


Saturday, April 5, 2008

Regenerative Medicine

Now here are some brilliant men and women who know all about critical thinking. They have actually found a way to regrow lost body parts, and even grow entire new organs! This seems like something straight out of a sci-fi story but it's actually happening. Lee Spievack lost the tip of his finger in an accident and was able to regrow a new fingertip within 4 weeks. It was quite hard to believe at first but apparently all he did was cover it in this powder scientists have developed.
That powder is a substance made from pig bladders called extracellular matrix. It is a mix of protein and connective tissue surgeons often use to repair tendons and it holds some of the secrets behind the emerging new science of regenerative medicine.

"It tells the body, start that process of tissue regrowth," said Badylak.

Badlayk is one of the many scientists who now believe every tissue in the body has cells which are capable of regeneration. All scientists have to do is find enough of those cells and "direct" them to grow.
As if that wasn't enough to blow your mind, they are also regrowing entirely new organs using an ink jet printer! It sounds ridiculous but you can see for yourself in the video "Manufacturing Body Parts".

Gone are the days when people's fears of the future involved mass cloning and the harvesting of organs from clones. With this technology all that is necessary is the patient's own cells.


Friday, April 4, 2008

Common Sense, Logic, Reasoning? Foreign to Americans

The worst part about a lack of common sense is, those afflicted feel they know all they need to know to debate anything they have even the faintest opinion on. No matter what you believe, who you are or where you come from, please learn real facts about something before you tell everyone you know what you think is true and they just accept it because they trust you. Word of mouth is in my opinion one of the most effective means of communicating an idea to a large audience. Maybe it won't happen overnight, but it's great advertisement. The problem with this in modern society is so many people will simply take what they hear and believe it, without a second thought to it. Because after all, we believe in crazy things like Angels, Ghosts, and Noah's Arc don't we? If someone tells you that the sandwich shop down the street has great meatball subs, that might cause you to make a decision to go and try their meatball subs when you otherwise wouldn't have. However if you find out from personal experience that the shop's meatball subs taste like vomit, you aren't going to still believe that lying person that told you they were great.

The problem here is different for different people. If I tell you a law is being passed that will limit the amount of gasoline a car-owner can purchase, how do you know that I am lying? You couldn't possibly know that I am lying unless you are a member of congress or you took the time to research current laws being passed. But who has the time to do that kind of research? What I told you doesn't sound completely crazy what with the "oil crisis" and all. Actually it sounds downright plausible to you, and since you can't be bothered to actually do some critical thinking and research, you might as well just accept it as truth and tell everyone you know. This is exactly what I'm talking about here, common sense is so uncommon. Nobody feels the need to know anything to be true for sure, if they hear it from a reliable source it must be true. What has happened to human logic and reasoning? It sometimes feels as if we are devolving as a species the capacities of the mind which enabled us to triumph over all other species in the first place. The world can be a lonely place sometimes when you feel like the only person with reasoning skills. That is not to say that I actually believe that to be true, it's just a disheartening feeling.

Common Sense is not so Common

Seeing as how this is the first post, I want to create some sort of declaration of purpose. If you ask anyone that knows me well enough, you will find out that I am against the idea of blogging. The reason for this is what blogging has become. Every 12-year old with access to mommy's computer can create and spew random garbage content onto a blog, therefore the process of actually finding some intellectual content on a blog can be as tedious and painful as wading through a sewer in search of a leprechauns pot of gold.

Now you're beginning to see my disdain for the majority of the so-called "blogosphere". You may then begin to question why I am even bothering to write, why I would waste my time and certainly why I am starting my own blog. It seems hypocritical of me, I can't fully refute that. However I believe there are very few people in general that have the capacity for common sense. I want to find these people and wake them up from the fantasy media-centric world we live in to get a good look at the bigger picture. Certain things which we have never even heard of have so much potential to change our lives and they need to be paid attention to.

It has become apparent that common sense, at least in America, is utterly uncommon and sometimes just seems downright rare. Why then, should it even be called "common" sense? Does anyone even know what I'm talking about? My first question doesn't really even need to be answered, if I had a better term for it I would indeed use it. So what is this all about? Common sense? It's the part of our minds that can look at something and immediately determine whether or not that something is even plausible. If I told you the Tooth Fairy visited me last night and we started a rock band with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, you would probably laugh as if I was joking. Your mind would immediately tell you that I am full of crap. This is the degree of common sense most people have, the ability to determine the validity of something that is painfully obvious. True common sense is being able to apply that same principle no matter what you are predisposed to believe. If I told you that there is an invisible man that lives in the sky and watches everything everyone does every second, depending on who you are you would probably agree with that. I want to address this issue.