Saturday, March 30, 2013

Creationist Tactics: Zeno's Transitional Fossil

I'm fairly certain I've blogged on this topic before, or at least mentioned this tactic in passing at least once or twice, but I wanted to devote something like an entire post to this. We see this all the time from creationists; evolution doesn't happen in real life, they say, because there's no proof of it. When pressed, "proof" becomes synonymous with "transitional fossil." The absence of transitional fossils, then, is why evolution clearly isn't happening.

Here in lies the rub. I named this after Zeno's dichotomy paradox: according to Zeno's dichotomy paradox, you have Point A and Point B. Say that Point A is your car door, and Point B is your house door. Now, you're leaving your house to get to your car. According to Zeno, you will never reach your car door. In order to go between Point A and Point B, you have to go 1/2 way. But in order to 1/2 way, you have to 1/4 the way. But before you can go 1/4 the way, you have to 1/8 the way. But before you can do that, you have to go 1/16 the way, and then 1/32, and then 1/64, and then 1/128, and then 1/256, et cetera. Thus, since you're always going 1/2 of the 1/2 to get there, you can never reach your point. I've also seen this referred to as Zeno's arrow paradox; in order for an arrow to fly to its target, first it has to go 1/2 the way, but before that, it has to go 1/4, and you can see where this goes. It goes on like this for infinity.

Why is the transitional fossil argument creationists use identical to Zeno's paradox?

We have Species A (sA) and from it, evolved Species B (sB). Creationists claim evolution doesn't happen, because there's no evidence that Species A evolved from Species B. In order to find the evidence sA evolved into sB, we need to present a transitional fossil that shows traits of both sA and sB; call this fossil species sb. So we have sA --> sb ---> sB. No sooner do we do this, though, than we have a demand for another transitional fossil, between sb and sA. Call this one sab. So now we have sA --> sab --> sb --> sB. Then we get another request to find a transitional fossil between sA and sab, and so forth. In order to get from Point A to Point B, we have to travel halfway, but we must travel halfway to get there, and then travel halfway again to get to the quarter of the way, and so forth. The same paradox is at work here. You will continually get requests of a halfway species representing a transitional fossil, ad naseum, and when you can't present it, then Tada! God! Evolution is wrong, suck it, Darwinists! They are aware that the fossil record is incomplete; that's why eventually you're going to run into a situation where this "argument tactic" will prevail.

How do we go about solving the problem? Simple.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Schools of the Singularity

I was reading through the internet the other day and I came across this article by Eliezer Yudkowsky. Now, I'm not at all familiar with Yudkowsky; Kurzweil I've heard of (and do not support; as near as I can tell, Kurzweil has some major issues - the largest of them being the fact that he's a computer guy with zero knowledge about neurobiology or neurochemistry, who seems to think that neural networks are easily constructed and work like standard computer processors. I'm taking a class on the Brain, Synapses, and Neurons at the end of the month, so I'll get a close look at just how realistic that is. I can tell you right now, though, that it's not realistic at all), and Kurzweil is referenced in the article I read. I've gone further and read a number of articles by Yudkowsky and I like the thinking (especially the article about transhumanism as simplified humanism, which is a view point I've been championing in my own little corner of the internet for nearly three years now). That's not what I'm looking at today, though - today I'm looking at the singularity.

I've touched on the Singularity and the concept of a Singularity before, but I don't recall if I ever went into depth about what I think of it. So I plan to do that. But first, I'd like to take a look at the three different schools of the Singularity that Yudkowsky offers. So follow me down the rabbit hole into a long needed post about transhumanism.

A Mask of Civility

I've run into this a number of times over the last few days, and it's worth noting:

Simply because you believe something does not mean it isn't harmful.

A very good example of this is the argument over marriage equality. While the segment of the population opposed to it is clearly loosing the fight, there are still those Christians (and Muslims, and Jews, and whatever) out there who think that, as long as you're not being Fred Phelps, you're okay. Or that you can still be intolerant but at the same time be a loving human being.

No. No.

Intolerant =/= Tolerance. You cannot be a loving human begin if you're a jackass who condemns people for expressing love towards individuals of the same sex.

"But... it's intolerant not to be tolerant of my intolerance!"


"Oh yeah, you're tolerant, but not towards Christians who stand up for what they believe in. God doesn't hate you, he just [insert theological theistic teleological rhetorical garbage here]."

You're just intolerant of my intolerance, so you're not tolerant at all. That's how it always goes, isn't it? I'm not as bad as them, clearly, because I believe that God loves you but doesn't support your "lifestyle" choice - but I'm not as bad as Fred Phelps. I'm better than that.

Let me spell this out. I'd rather deal with Fred Phelps than you. Why?

For the same reason I'd rather deal with an honest, uncivil brute than deal with a dishonest, civility-obsessed caitiff. You have a gilded tongue, my f(r)iend, and it forks rather clearly down the middle. You are not better because you're not vocally an asshole. You still vote for vocal assholes, you still support polices drafted by vocal assholes, and you still believe shit told to you by vocal assholes. Everything you do is designed by vocal assholes; every waking moment of your life is controlled by these people. You do what they tell you to, you believe what they say, and you claim that you're better than them.

You're not better. You're subservient to them. You're worse. The vocal assholes made up their minds, and they're not cowards about what they believe. You are. You hide behind civility, you whine when people call you out for what you are. You're both just as wrong, but because you're a coward about what you believe, you're doing more harm than the vocal asshole who dictates your every waking thought. If these vocal assholes are the ubermensch, you are the last man.

If you believe something, stand up and accept it. Make it yours, actually believe it. Own it. Don't sit there and ho-hum about it. Your belief is the same thing as Fred Phelp's belief. Own it, goddamn it. Be a responsible adult and own it.

And ultimately, it's the same thing. How are you any different?

Because you hide it behind the mask of "civility." That doesn't make you better. That makes you an intellectual coward.

I'm not tolerant of you. I will never be tolerant of you. Not only because I'm intolerant of things that hurt marginalized people or hold populations of people down, but because I'm also intolerant of cowards. And when you step up and own your hateful belief, we'll be able to deal on even terms.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Original Genetic Sin

Apparently, sin is genetic and nobody told me (via Slacktivist):

                This scientific picture of a group of early humans raises many questions, including particularly difficult ones related to the Fall. Plantinga and pastor Daniel Harrell both suggest a possible solution: perhaps Adam and Eve were two individuals within the group of early humans. This would preserve Adam as a real historical figure and the Fall as a real historical event. However, the spread of sin to the rest of the group is problematic, since it would take many generations to spread genetically through a population of thousands.
Personally, I find this to be a startling revelation. Just think for a minute about what the existence of an original sin gene (or, more likely, a sequence of genes, since rarely does a gene do anything by itself) means. Sin, then, becomes a little more than a genetic illness; it is something that can be treated. It is something that can be screened at birth, and removed from the human genome. The human species is capable of removing sin, then, and transitioning to a new, sin-free existence in much the same way that it would remove all other illnesses.

Perhaps there is just the tiniest amount of truth in this, surprisingly enough, but it's coming close to a workable answer (that requires a lot of polishing) while going about it in the absolutely wrong manner; it's like solving 2+2 with 5, and going about it as such: 2+1 - 2 - 1 = 3 * 1 = 3 +2 = 5. You're pulling figures out of your posterior, making it up as you go, and eventually coming to a conclusion that's removed from the realm of being correct. But if we consider original sin to include death, and the sequence that leads up to death (which I've heard some people say is the case), then this statement is, surprisingly enough, at least a quarter true. Our genetics contain the keys to our lifespans; these things called telomeres at the end of your genes, which short every time the gene divides with the cell it's in, determine how long your cells last and, by extension, how long you last. So if you include death into the "original sin" label, then that part of original sin is definitely genetic.

Now, here's a good example of the incomplete nature of Evangelical Apologetic thinking: if sin has a material cause, then is it possible to manipulate it? If not, why? Think about what we could do:
  • We could screen for sin at conception just like we do other genetic disorders and deformities and remove it from the genetic pool. 
  • We could manipulate the sin gene, setting it so that it's switched "off". If the gene sequence defining sin is switched "off", what happens?
  • Since it interacts with every generation, ever, it's neither a dominate nor a recessive gene, but it'd have to be something entirely different, like the gene sequences that determine your skin (not skin color, the fact that you have skin), or the fact that you have eyes, four limbs, or something of that manner. Maybe we could experiment with the nature of this "sin gene" and develop other genes that are just like it, which can help control behavior on the same level that we have complex gene patterns that control the fact that we grown skin and the organs we do grow.
    Just like there are fetuses who are born without heads or fetuses who are born without limbs or legs, then, it follows that there are also fetuses out there who are born without sin, since the sin gene failed to trigger. Of maybe the sin gene never fails to trigger. That would lead to phenomenal insights into how genes trigger and how they do, and perhaps allow us to piece together why the sin gene never fails to trigger and then export that pattern to other genes, as well.
  • If the sin gene is responsible for self awareness, then we could take it and, through vertical gene transfer, put it into other animals, giving them self-awareness too. What happens if this happens on accident, as vertical gene transfer is apt to do in nature? Can bacteria be fallen - will that bacteria become intelligent?
  • I can recreate computerized versions of genes, or we will be able to. If we recreate a computerized version of the sin gene sequence, will the computer doing so become fallen, too?
  • Before the decade is out, we will have genetic treatments to postpone death, and anti-aging treatments. Immortality treatments may come before the end of the century, and eventually, true biological immortality will follow. We can defeat death, and if you're going to narrowly define the "original sin" present in the genome as the existence of telomeres that determine when we die, then we'll end up defeating "original sin" in the long run, too. 
This is another example of lazy Evangelical-Creationist apologetics. None of these implications were thought through; they're desperately looking for the ever smaller holes to cram their God into. We have the entire gene sequence of not just humans but also Neanderthals, chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and bonobos mapped out, along with other plants, fungi, eukaryotic genomes and a mass of animals that include cats, dogs, dolphins and elephants. We did not find a "sin" gene sequence, because it does not exist. It's fantastic god magic that deserves derision for being as foolish and arrogant as it is. It's also remarkably lazy, since I was able to find all of this information by just typing in "animal genome project" into Google and pressing "go."

Molecular genetics is a surefire way to destroy creationism. There's no way it can survive what discoveries that molecular genetics finds; but then, we didn't need molecular genetics to destroy creationism. A little creative but thorough thinking and Google is more than enough to do that.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Advice for Feminine Women

Some advice for Feminine Women - 8 Easy Tips to Act More Feminine

Being a female and acting feminine are two entirely different things. Femininity should not be taken for granted. Just because you are a female doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be feminine too. It’s an art that sometimes needs to be mastered. So here are 5 [sic] quick and easy tips for you to act feminine:

1. Dress feminine

Renee appeared a few moments later, snapping her belt buckle. She stood up, straightening up the scarf. The pants were almost bell-bottom like; with wide pant-legs for the feet, but fairly tight fitting everywhere else. They were solid white, save for the blue stripe around the foot hole. The belt was likewise solid white, with a clear dome over it. The shirt was a blue tie-die shirt, and it fit neatly under the jean jacket. Finally, she wore blue gloves and her scarf, which seemed to round the whole uniform out. The last parts of her uniform were sitting on the table beside her, including the plastic facemask, the goggles, and the armor.
                “I can put more of the climbing-stuff on these gloves, and I found these tennis shoes that I can put the bouncy rubber on.”
                She kicked a pair of white and blue tennis shoes into the open.
                “Rene, that shirt is a spiral,” Ofelia said.
                “It looks like a bull’s-eye, I know. I sorta want it that way – see, I’m going to be wearing that armor over my chest. If they shoot at my chest, then they can’t hurt me.”

2. Brush up on your manners

All by himself, a single man monitored everything from the tower. He could see everything clearly; with a pair of binoculars, he could even see into downtown.
                His radio crackled to life, and he flipped it open.
                “How is everything?”
                “We’re all clear.”
                The signal died, and he flipped his phone shut. Those who knew the vigilantes existed – or had existed – were still on edge. He was one of them, and he kept his ears open for any kind of activity that would give them away.
                He was tired though. There were candy bar wrappers all over the floor, with a half-empty 24 oz. fast-food cup within arm’s reach.
                He stood up, stretching, and then sat back down.
                “Excuse me, sweetie? You’re in my spot, and I’m going to have to ask you to move.”
                He turned around, and the last thing he saw was a fist.

3. Smile often

She carried the bag out of the locker as the other girls started to file in. When she saw one of the girls that pushed her off of the wooden horse, Renee frowned coldly. Cyan watched her stick her tongue out at Renee and then fall forward, firmly planting her face into the floor. The other girls stopped as she held her nose crying.
                Renee walked away, a vindictive smile on her face. She felt better.
                Cyan caught up with her as they walked towards the door. The bell hadn’t rung yet, but Renee didn’t have it in her mind to stay any longer. As she reached the door and pushed it open the bell rang, and she looked back at Cyan.
                “See? We made it just in time for the first bell.”
                “No, she tripped herself. That’s why we tie our shoes: so people don’t step on the laces.”

4. Be gentle, sweet and kind

The Pimpernel landed on the ground as Shadow ripped into the two hoods that were just stepping out into the midst of the chaos, their hands full. Two more, with their hands empty, stepped out from the cab of the truck, as Roth threw the thug off of him and stood up. The Pimpernel could hear the tiny motors in his hands whirl as he clenched them.
                “Hey there, sparkles,” She said. “You left your dignity on the floor back at Joliet Union. I was going to give it back to you, but it died on the way over here. Oh well.”

5. Do not use abusive words

There were two possible entrances she could make. The first was crawling through. The second was more dramatic, so that was the one she opted to do. Grabbing the top of the window seal firmly in both hands, the Ghost let go of the wall and tried to swing in. It looked cool, and it would make her feel like an actual hero. She didn’t bet on the frame being so rotted it broke when she was in mid-swing, with gravity pulling her down. Her head slammed against the corner of the window ledge, and she hit the floor with an exceptionally loud thud, rolling and holding the back of her head.
            Carajo! Harah! Sharlila!”
She was still holding the back of her head. She could see stars, but couldn’t feel blood, so that meant her head was a little harder than she gave it credit for being. It also meant her mom was right about her having a thick skull, but she wasn’t going there.
                The Ghost staggered onto her feet. “Yah ben shel kahba!” She shouted at the window ledge. “Lech lehizdayen, yah pin noteph ziva! Yah zayin lo arel! Hijo de puta! Cago en tu leche; anda que te coja un barro, puta madre! Lech tiez’da’yni, kalba ben kelev! Pinche puta!”
                She turned around, a storm still over her head. It didn’t matter if anyone heard or not. Even if someone did, they weren’t likely to think anything of it, much less understand words and phrases that she didn’t understand, having learned them from her grandfather. It sure helped her feel better, though.

6. Do not speak bluntly

Shadow froze for a moment, but shook it off and attacked the closest one by shoving it down. The armor didn’t protect against blades. Those blades were sharp enough to cut through a watermelon in one slice with little force behind them; they’d leave deep marks before they stopped.
                “We walked into this!” the Ghost shouted. “Why the hell did we walk into this!?”
                She ducked under a swing of the claws, as they anchored themselves into the wall.
                “Because we’re stupid,” Shadow said, falling into one of the open rooms and grabbing one of the chairs.  

7. Be sensitive

“What’s wrong? You don’t sparkle. I thought pretty-boy vampire-wannabes were supposed to sparkle. Did I knock them off, too?”
                He lunged, and she flipped over him. He crashed into the pews, rolled, and tore one off the floor as she landed on the ground.
                “C’mon. Stop blowing sparkles out your ass and fight me.”
                He swung the pew at her, almost hitting her. She flipped over it, like she was vaulting over a hurdle, and rolled to a stop.
                He slammed the pew down, as she rolled out of the way.
                “And you know what? Even… even if you did sparkle… it wouldn’t save you from being one ugly motherfucker.”

8. Control your temper

“Yep. According to his web-page, he can bench-press a truck and bend a twelve inch iron pipe with his bare hand.”
                She snorted.
                “He’s an underground fighter. Styled vampire. I can’t believe how bad you’ve messed him up compared to this picture.”
                “I only knocked his jaw loose. And dropped a several thousand pound chandler on him.”
                “Well, he says he’s a modified human, because of some kind of accident. He’s not lying – but his modified body is not one for fighting. He isn’t even a good fighter, besides that point. Some of the claims about this guy are that he pays others to throw the fight. That way, it looks like he’s always winning. I’m guessing he’s the Family’s golden goose – not because he can fight, but because he pays people to lose so he doesn’t have to. He’s got a hell of a memetic campaign, though. Good manager, I’ll bet.”
                “He’s a mediocre fighter at best,” she said. “He only got the drop on me because I was mad. I’ve learned from that mistake. But that’s good to know. I have something else I can throw at him.”

And there you have. 8 ways to be more feminine, brought to you courtesy of the girls of The Blue Pimpernel.

Remember, the Blue Pimpernel is still on sale. You can get a copy (ebook or dead tree), here, at Lulu (Link goes to the ebook).