Humans are, in many ways, just “Fish out of Water.”

There’s a great article over at RichardDawkins.net about some of the history of our development through evolution. It explains how some of the common conditions and ailments we suffer from are the results of humans being descended from other life forms:

‘Fish out of water: Your Inner Fish’ by Neil Shubin – RichardDawkins.net

Our humanity comes at a cost. For the exceptional combination of things we do—talk, think, grasp, and walk on two legs—we pay a price.

This is an inevitable result of the tree of life inside us. Imagine trying to jerry-rig a Volkswagen Beetle to travel at speeds of 150 miles per hour. In 1933 Adolf Hitler commissioned Dr. Ferdinand Porsche to develop a cheap car that could get 40 miles per gallon of gas and provide a reliable form of transportation for the average German family. The result was the VW Beetle. This history, Hitler’s plan, places constraints on the ways we can modify the Beetle today; the engineering can be tweaked only so far before major problems arise and the car reaches its limit.

In many ways, we humans are the fish equivalent of a hot-rod Beetle. Take the body plan of a fish, dress it up to be a mammal, then tweak and twist that mammal until it walks on two legs, talks, thinks, and has superfine control of its fingers—and you have a recipe for problems. We can dress up a fish only so much without paying a price. In a perfectly designed world—one with no history—we would not have to suffer everything from hemorrhoids to cancer.

Nowhere is this history more visible than in the detours, twists, and turns of our arteries, nerves, and veins. Follow some nerves and you’ll find that they make strange loops around other organs, apparently going in one direction only to twist and end up in an unexpected place. The detours are fascinating products of our past that, as we’ll see, often create problems—hiccups and hernias, for example. And this is only one way our past comes back to plague us.

It’s a good read and I encourage you to go read it in full. It’s this sort of breadth of knowledge that the Theory of Evolution has provided us that just shoots holes in the so-called Intelligent Design alternative explanation. An all-powerful, all-knowing God would’ve done a much better job of designing humans than what we see in ourselves. Either that or he’s not as all-knowing as he likes to think he is.

Enough is Enough: A Thinking Ape’s Critique of Trans-Simianism

Enough is Enough: A Thinking Ape’s Critique of Trans-Simianism

Aaron Diaz
Dresden Codak

Posted: Dec 16, 2007

The following was taken from a cave wall painting in southern Tunisia more than 300,000 years ago. Fossil evidence suggests that the author was of the species Homo erectus.

To further expound upon the topic of last week’s installment, I will address the more specific claims of Dr. Klomp and his radical theory that has been gaining wider acceptance throughout the community. Once again I would like to thank our readers for sending in your fish bones and boar hides in support of this journalist’s campaign to expose Dr. Klomp’s trans-simianist prattle for what it is: a collection of wishful thoughts out of keeping with any factual evidence.

The term ‘trans-simian’ comes from the shortening of ‘transitional simian,’ a concept Dr. Klomp has developed to describe an individual who is in an evolutionary transition from simian to post-simian, though Klomp himself admits that he is not entirely clear what a true post-simian would be.  Characteristics exhibited by a trans-simian include augmentation of one’s natural abilities with ‘tools,’ as well as one’s mental capacities with what has been dubbed ‘culture.’

Klomp’s primary argument rests on what he calls the ‘Quickening,’ an imagined point somewhere in the future when the advancement of ‘culture’ occurs so rapidly that its pace will far exceed that of biological evolution.  In his own words,

  “There will come a time when within a single generation we will develop one or possibly even two new ideas… Current advancements in the ‘bow’ and ‘arrow’ industries suggest an exponential trend in the expansion of our technological capacities.  We are able to perform hunts in a fraction of the time it took our ancestors, thus freeing up valuable time to ‘ think ‘ of new ideas. In the post-simian world, we may develop into a species that is not only intellectually superior to our current state, but capable of feats beyond the comprehension of a contemporary simian.”

The rest of the piece can be found here.  It’s a pretty funny take on some of the arguments that I guess are bandied about by not only opponents of the Transhumanist philosophy, but also of some anti-evolution arguments that Creationists like to toss around.  Also, I’d recommend the author’s webcomic Dresden Codak; it’s pretty weird, but consistently excellent, and he’s a hell of an artist.

“Science, Evolution, and Creationism” available for free.

The folks at the National Academy of Sciences have put together a book titled Science, Evolution, and Creationism which looks to be a much needed resource for all the evolution deniers out there (if you can get them to read a book). They’re offering to sell you a copy or you can download a free PDF edition to print out and shove at one of the (several) Presidential candidates who don’t accept the Theory of Evolution. Here’s the full press release:

Date:  Jan. 3, 2008
Contact: Maureen O’Leary, Director of Public Information
Office of News and Public Information
202-334-2138; e-mail news@nas.edu

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Scientific Evidence Supporting Evolution Continues To Grow; Nonscientific Approaches Do Not Belong In Science Classrooms

WASHINGTON—The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and Institute of Medicine (IOM) today released SCIENCE, EVOLUTION, AND CREATIONISM, a book designed to give the public a comprehensive and up-to-date picture of the current scientific understanding of evolution and its importance in the science classroom.  Recent advances in science and medicine, along with an abundance of observations and experiments over the past 150 years, have reinforced evolution’s role as the central organizing principle of modern biology, said the committee that wrote the book.

“SCIENCE, EVOLUTION, AND CREATIONISM provides the public with coherent explanations and concrete examples of the science of evolution,” said NAS President Ralph Cicerone.  “The study of evolution remains one of the most active, robust, and useful fields in science.”

“Understanding evolution is essential to identifying and treating disease,” said Harvey Fineberg, president of IOM.  “For example, the SARS virus evolved from an ancestor virus that was discovered by DNA sequencing.  Learning about SARS’ genetic similarities and mutations has helped scientists understand how the virus evolved.  This kind of knowledge can help us anticipate and contain infections that emerge in the future.”

DNA sequencing and molecular biology have provided a wealth of information about evolutionary relationships among species.  As existing infectious agents evolve into new and more dangerous forms, scientists track the changes so they can detect, treat, and vaccinate to prevent the spread of disease.

Biological evolution refers to changes in the traits of populations of organisms, usually over multiple generations.  One recent example highlighted in the book is the 2004 fossil discovery in Canada of fish with “intermediate” features—four finlike legs—that allowed the creature to pull itself through shallow water onto land.  Scientists around the world cite this evidence as an important discovery in identifying the transition from ocean-dwelling creatures to land animals.  By understanding and employing the principles of evolution, the discoverers of this fossil focused their search on layers of the Earth that are approximately 375 million years old and in a region that would have been much warmer during that period.  Evolution not only best explains the biodiversity on Earth, it also helps scientists predict what they are likely to discover in the future.

Over very long periods of time, the same processes that enable evolution to occur within species also can result in the appearance of new species.  The formation of a new species generally takes place when one subgroup within a species mates for an extended period largely within that subgroup, often following geographical separation from other members of the species.  If such reproductive isolation continues, members of the subgroup may no longer respond to courtship from members of the original population.  Eventually, genetic changes become so substantial that members of different subgroups can no longer produce viable offspring.  In this way, new species can continually “bud off” of existing species. 

Despite the overwhelming evidence supporting evolution, opponents have repeatedly tried to introduce nonscientific views into public school science classes through the teaching of various forms of creationism or intelligent design.  In 2005, a federal judge in Dover, Pennsylvania, concluded that the teaching of intelligent design is unconstitutional because it is based on religious conviction, not science (Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District).  NAS and IOM strongly maintain that only scientifically based explanations and evidence for the diversity of life should be included in public school science courses.  “Teaching creationist ideas in science class confuses students about what constitutes science and what does not,” the committee stated.

“As SCIENCE, EVOLUTION, AND CREATIONISM makes clear, the evidence for evolution can be fully compatible with religious faith.  Science and religion are different ways of understanding the world.  Needlessly placing them in opposition reduces the potential of each to contribute to a better future,” the book says.

SCIENCE, EVOLUTION, AND CREATIONISM is the third edition of a publication first issued in 1984 and updated in 1999.  The current book was published jointly by the National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine, and written by a committee chaired by Francisco Ayala, Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, department of ecology and evolutionary biology, University of California, Irvine, and author of several books on science and religion.  A committee roster follows. 

The book was funded by the NAS, IOM, the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation, the Biotechnology Institute, and the Coalition of Scientific Societies.
                                                                                                                           
Copies of SCIENCE, EVOLUTION, AND CREATIONISM will be available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242, or on the Internet at www.nap.edu/sec, for $12.95; a PDF version is FREE.  Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contact listed above).  In addition, a podcast of the public briefing held to release this publication is available at http://national-academies.org/podcast. The NAS’ evolution resources Web page, http://national-academies.org/evolution, allows easy access to books, position statements, and additional resources on evolution education and research. 

The National Academy of Sciences is an independent society of scientists, elected by their peers for outstanding contributions to their field, with a mandate from Congress since 1863 to advise the federal government on issues of science and technology.  The Institute of Medicine was created in 1970 by the NAS to provide science-based advice on matters of biomedical science, medicine, and health. 

[This news release and book are available at http://national-academies.org ]

NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE

I know of at least two people I’m going to be pointing to that page after I finish reading it myself. Never hurts to brush up.

Sherri Shephard of “The View” doesn’t know if the world if flat or not.

I’m not a big fan of The View and haven’t been ever since former host Star Jones publicly derided atheists and said she’d never vote for one. So it shouldn’t be any surprise to me to find out that yet another host of the show is an idiot. This time it’s Sherri Shephard who starts off her idiocy by saying she doesn’t believe in the Theory of Evolution. Then when newly added host Whoopi Goldberg challenges her on it by asking if the world is flat Shephard confirms her status as a moron by saying she doesn’t know and tries to use the excuse that she’s too busy being a mother to worry about it…

It also shouldn’t come as any surprise to find out that Shephard is a conservative. Now that I think on it, does anyone know of any liberals who are dumb enough to argue that Evolution isn’t real?

Link via The Daily Background.

SEB Mailbag: Someone comes to “Dr.” Kent Hovind’s defense.

Got an email this morning from someone upset with one of the many entries I’ve written about “Dr.” Kent Hovind. I”m assuming, based on the content, that it was one of the entries about Hovind’s trial for tax evasion. Here’s the email with my reply:

From: kevin hitch
Subject: dr kent hovind

hovind did nothing wrong he stood up for his rights and the truth is there attacking him because he is a christian thats the bottom line but i see your a liberal so i know you love bog brother and want him to control your life so get in line and get your microchip

Wow, Kevin, as a defense of Hovind that was pretty bad, but at least it was mercifully short. Hovind broke the law, tax law to be particular, and he’s paying the price for not taking the opportunities to correct his misdeed when he was offered (the IRS would much rather you pay then go to jail, but Hovind insisted on not paying until it was clear he was going to jail). His “truth” is wrong on both evolution AND tax law and unfortunately for him one of those two things ended up putting his ass in jail.

It’s good to see you’re just full of prejudices as well. Yes, I’m a liberal but that doesn’t mean I love “bog brother” as you put it. If you took the time to read more of my site you’d see that I spend a good deal of time arguing against big brother government, but you’re so smart you don’t need pesky things like facts before you make up your mind, right?

Thanks for the early morning laugh at your expense.

Les

Religious Fundy has his own crusade against Mozilla Firefox.

I’m browsing through the Techdirt blog this evening and I come across an entry titled On The Stupidity Of Blocking Firefox Users:

Ferin alerts us to a story at Slashdot about some new campaign among some websites to block Firefox users. To be honest, it’s tough to know how real this is. The actual site is down from the Slashdot Effect, and it certainly hadn’t received much attention before. Even if it is real, it seems unlikely that many sites would sign up and take part. Most people just aren’t that stupid. However, assuming (big risk here) that the campaign is real and some sites actually are doing this, it’s worth explaining why it makes no sense. The complaints are basically that Firefox users “spend less” and sometimes use extensions like ad block to block out ads. Even if true (and it’s only a small percentage of people who use ad block), that makes no sense if you understand the bigger picture. First of all, they tell people to go use other browsers—but if those people aren’t going to click on ads anyway, then they’re still not going to click on ads from other browsers.

If you try to go to one of the sites participating in the ban you get redirected to Why FireFox is Blocked.com which lays out the reasoning for the ban:

The Mozilla Foundation and its Commercial arm, the Mozilla Corporation, has allowed and endorsed Ad Block Plus, a plug-in that blocks advertisement on web sites and also prevents site owners from blocking people using it. Software that blocks all advertisement is an infringement of the rights of web site owners and developers. Numerous web sites exist in order to provide quality content in exchange for displaying ads. Accessing the content while blocking the ads, therefore would be no less than stealing. Millions of hard working people are being robbed of their time and effort by this type of software.  Many site owners therefore install scripts that prevent people using ad blocking software from accessing their site. That is their right as the site owner to insist that the use of their resources accompanies the presence of the ads.

While blanket ad blocking in general is still theft, the real problem is Ad Block Plus’s unwillingness to allow individual site owners the freedom to block people using their plug-in. Blocking FireFox is the only alternative. Demographics have shown that not only are FireFox users a somewhat small percentage of the internet, they actually are even smaller in terms of online spending, therefore blocking FireFox seems to have only minimal financial drawbacks, whereas ending resource theft has tremendous financial rewards for honest, hard-working website owners and developers..

Since the makers of Ad Block Plus as well as the filter subscriptions that accompany it refuse to allow website owners control over their own intellectual property, and since FireFox actively endorses Ad Block Plus, the sites linking to this page are now blocking FireFox until the resource theft is stopped.

The site includes links to pages on how to block Firefox, supposed Firefox Myths, and—the one that caught my eye—The Firefox Cult. Now normally I wouldn’t give a shit if a sight blocked me because I was using Firefox as chances are they’re not supplying anything I’d be interested in anyway, but this piqued my curiosity so I read the comments left in the original Techdirt entry and at comment #36 we find out who it is that’s behind this campaign. Turns out it’s some guy by the name of Danny Carlton and he left the following comment:

I’m the “some websites” slashdot refers to. Here are the facts that seem to be omitted.

1. This isn’t a group, it’s one person, me.
2. Ad Block Plus, like many ad blocking software is most commonly used to block all ads. (which is stealing)
3. Unlike other ad blocking software, Ad Block Plus intentionally prevents site owners from blocking those that use it.
4. FireFox actively promotes Ad Block plus
5. Since I am unable to prevent people from stealing resources by blocking only ad block software users, I therefore block all Mozilla users.
6. There are more ways to detect Mozilla than the useragent.
7. Using IETab will allow FireFox users to access my sites. Something I recommend and even link to in the page explaining why I am blocking FireFox (which it seems very few FireFox user have the ability to read past the first few words)
8. By the hate email and phone calls I’ve been getting, some really sick and disturbed people use FireFox and seem to treat it as a religion.

Hmmm. There’s that Firefox-as-religion theme again. Time to do a Google Search for Danny Carlton. He’s the very first result that comes up, though oddly enough it’s for a site called JackLewis.net. Clicking the link in Firefox does bring up the Why Firefox is Blocked page so it’s safe to assume this is one and the same guy and Google verifies it is with a link to a page titled Danny Carlton—alias “Jack Lewis”.

So this is where it gets interesting because the very first thing you’ll notice about his site are the banners proclaiming …as for me and my blog, we will serve the LORD! and I STAND WITH ISRAEL! along with copious ads from various services, including Google AdSense, down the left side of the page. Then the very first entry in his weblog at the time I clicked on it is titled When religion poses as science in which he takes the recent news report about a couple of German physicists who claimed to have broken the speed of light that came out a couple of days ago and uses it as a foundation for a rant against Evolution:

See, that’s the problem when religion (Evolution) poses as science: scientific findings that are contrary to the religion are suppressed, crippling real science. So why weren’t these scientists aware of the 2005 experiments that produced similar results, published here and mentioned here? Why weren’t these scientists aware of the experiments that produced the opposite effect (slowing the velocity of light) published here and mentioned here? Dr. Nimtz seems peculiarly ignorant of other experiments producing results that also pose a serious problem to the religion of Evolution.

One of the “foundational” “proofs” for the overall religion of Evolution is the distances of stars. By claiming stars are so far away, adherents to the religion of Evolution use that as evidence for an old universe. However that falls apart if the speed of light is not an absolute (actually it falls apart for several other reasons, but much more apparently without the assumption of Einstein’s claim about the velocity of light). So research that shows any aberration in the dogma of an absolute speed of light is conveniently ignored, suppressed and tossed aside. Thus we have Dr. Nimtz being oblivious to other, recent findings.

One has to wonder how much science has been crippled by the religion of Evolution.

Suddenly, it all becomes so clear. With logic skills like that it’s no wonder he thinks he has to block all Firefox users. Suddenly I’m very glad that I can’t get to his website using Firefox as the utter stupidity of it all might melt my brain. It’s probably just a coincidence, but poking around his other entries just caused Internet Explorer 7 to crash and I can’t help but wonder if it’s just IE’s usual flakiness or the sheer amount of stupidity present on the site choking the poor browser to death. A few more examples of his line of thinking include Foreign aid to Israel is defense spending and Liberal Jihad. The last of which is a rant about Elizabeth Edwards campaigning for her husband:

There something very cowardly about a candidate sending his cancer-ridden wife out to attack his opponents, knowing they dare not respond too harshly for fear that they’ll be accused of attacking someone suffering. This seems eerily similar to the radical Moslems’ tactic of using children and women as suicide bombers. Exploiting their opponents virtues to render them defenseless.

Is it any wonder John Edwards is now being called “The Other Female Candidate”.

It’s amazing one man can contain so much stupidity without imploding in on himself. One of the buttons along the left-hand side of his blog announces that he’s a 2006 Nominee for the Homeschool Blog Awards in the categories of “Best Homeschool Dad Blog” and “Best Current Events, Opinions or Politics Blog.” Now there’s a ringing endorsement.

This fellow might be a fun one to check in on from time to time, that is if I can keep IE7 from crashing too often while I’m there. The funny thing about that is I’ve never had IE7 crash on a site before. Of course I don’t use it that often either so that may be why, but I suspect it has more to do with the amount of stupid at that site. It’s just too much for the poor thing to take in at once.

Scientists are on the verge of creating synthetic life.

Big news in the realm of biology as scientists have successfully performed a “species transplant” turning one bacteria into another one. The technique used in this experiment will be key in the creation of artificial life:

Since the 1970s, scientists have moved genes – instructions to make proteins – between different organisms.

But this marks the first time that the entire instruction set, consisting of more than a million “letters” of DNA, has been transplanted, transforming one species of bacterium into another.

They are attempting to build a microbe with the minimal set of genes needed for life, with the goal of then adding other useful genes, such as ones for making biofuels.

It recently submitted broad patents for methods to create a synthetic genome from such lab-made DNA.

In anticipation, the team wanted to develop a way to move a complete genome into a living cell, choosing the simplest and smallest kind, a bacterium.

In all, of the millions of bacteria that they tried the transplant on, it only worked one time in every 150,000.

Dr Venter likened it to “changing a Macintosh computer into a PC by inserting a new piece of software” and stressed it would be more difficult in other kinds of cells, which have enzymes to snip the DNA of invaders.

But he said to achieve the feat, without adding anything more than naked DNA, “is a huge enabling step.”

There’s still plenty of other hurdles to overcome and the scientists still don’t fully grasp how introducing new DNA reprograms a cell, but it’s a significant first step. The fact that this works at all is yet another validation of the theory of evolution which the creationists will handily ignore with a wave of their hand.

Latest Gallop Poll says nearly half of Americans are idiots.

The results from the latest USA TODAY/Gallup Poll on Evolution continue the trend of idiocy in this country on the topic of Evolution.

  • “Evolution, that is, the idea that human beings developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life” is probably or definitely false: 44%
  • “Creationism, that is, the idea that God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years” is probably or definitely true: 66%
  • 15% said that they would be more likely to vote for a candidate that did not believe in evolution.

That last line is the only bright spot to be found in the poll as the majority don’t think a candidate’s acceptance, or lack thereof, of evolution is relevant on how qualified a person is to be President. Though, in its own way, that’s sort of depressing as well.

Sometimes it’s amazing to me that half our population manages to avoid having their heads implode from the vacuum within.

Link found via Stranger Fruit.

Fight the Stupid: Link to five science posts a week.

DOF asked me if I’d help to propogate this meme:

At the recent Republican debate, three out of ten Republican candidates stated that they did not believe in evolution. This reflects a larger ignorance of science. I have a very simple idea to combat the Stoopid for bloggers who don’t think of themselves as ‘science’ bloggers:

Once per week, link to five ‘science’ posts that you found interesting.

I already try to link to science posts often, but on reflection I realize that I don’t manage to do it as often as I sometimes think I do. I was stunned to hear that three of the Republican candidates for President don’t believe in Evolution though I don’t know why I should be surprised when nearly half of Americans also reject it in poll after poll.

As someone who has bemoaned the poor grasp of science by most Americans on more than one occasion I could be doing more to help promote it and so I will. Some of these posts may be little more than link dumps as I often have little to add to the articles in question, but I’ll be picking up the pace a bit just the same.

More conversations with a dumb ass: Evolution edition.

More fun with the SEB mailbag. Got the following email last night:

From: ironman

To: Les Jenkins
Date: 1/4/2006 1:03AM
Subject: Stupid Evil Bastard

Thanks for putting Hovind’s video on your site. We need to spread the truths he speaks.

; )

I sent back the following reply:

The only thing that video has been spreading is howls of laughter. It’s some pretty funny shit.

Les

Figured he was a drive-by evangelist and I probably wouldn’t hear from him again, but I was wrong. Had two emails this afternoon when I checked my inbox so I combined them into a single reply and sent it off. Here’s my reply with his quoted message embedded:

ironman wrote:

    Keep living with your head in the sand.

That’s amusing coming from someone who can’t even set the clock on his PC correctly. Your emails are arriving with a date of 1/4/2006. You’re over a year behind and a dollar short.

    “That video”? God man, there are many videos like that one by different people.

Yes, I’m aware of the other videos as well. Lots of stupid people in this world. No shortage of sources for stupid videos.

    You are not well informed. It comes from living with your head in the sand.

I’m better informed than most. I at least know how to set my PC’s clock properly.

    BTW, if you want to debate evolution, though I doubt that you are up to the task since you think the video in question is the only one of it’s kind, I’d be happy to show you how life never evolved using science and only science.

I never said I thought it was the only one of its kind. You’re making assumptions all over the place here and that doesn’t bode well for your ability to prove much of anything other than your own ignorance.

But I’m game. Let’s take this public and I’ll happily debate Evolution with you. I’ve started a special thread on my blog just for you. It’s titled: More conversations with a dumbass: Evolution edition.

Les

I included the URL to this entry. Let’s see if he’s brave enough to accept the challenge.