Pro Choice does not mean Pro Abortion

Pro-Choice does not mean Pro-Abortion

Abortion is a very sensitive topic with a lot of high charged emotions flying about. If you remove the emotional element it is easy to see either sides point, but there are a few things that should be cleared up from either perspective.

Pro-Choice does not mean Pro-Abortion

There seems to be an attitude that those who are pro-choice are pro-abortion. Almost to the point where it is thought those that are pro-choice actively seek pregnancy just to have an abortion. I find this attitude abhorrent.

Abortion has to be one of the most difficult choices anyone can make, and we really shouldn’t judge anyone for having made it. Being male it is something I am never going to have to go through, and I honestly cannot imagine what the experience is like.

I have been with someone who did have an abortion. She hated herself for doing it but knew it was the best decision. She had a bad break up, was at university, and had a stupid night that could have ruined her entire life. She made the decision to abort because she knew she would not have been able to provide for the child. Rather than sit at home claiming benefits and scraping by for the rest of her life she made the toughest decision of her life.

Should we really judge her for this decision?

Saying pro-choice is pro-abortion is like saying someone who is pro-gun is pro-massacre.

pro gun and pro life but abortion is murder

If the purpose of the gun is to protect life by potentially killing one life, is that not the same with abortion?

Abortion is Murder

I’ve often heard people say abortion is murder. I can understand why one could feel that way.
The definition of murder is: the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another.
As abortion is legal, it does not fit in to that category. However it is illegal in some places – so is it murder in those instances?

The definition of human being is: a man, woman, or child of the species Homo sapiens, distinguished from other animals by superior mental development, power of articulate speech, and upright stance.

The definition of foetus is: an unborn or unhatched offspring of a mammal, in particular an unborn human more than eight weeks after conception.

Prior to 8 weeks it is referred to as a zygote of fertilised egg.

By the definition of human, it could be said that a foetus or zygote do not classify as a human child, much in the way a seed is not classified as a tree or a flower.

When we look at the development of a foetus we can see key stages and pain is not experienced till the third trimester.

“What we can say about the fetal nervous system is that based on the best science we have” on the neurons that carry pain signals is that the “system isn’t developed until the third trimester of pregnancy,” Davis told Live Science.

Dr Derbyshire, who is linked to pro-choice groups, said there were various stages of a foetus’ gestation at which certain parts of the body’s pain “alarm system” developed.
He concludes that pathways in the brain needed to process pain responses and hormonal stress responses are in place by 26 weeks.

“Pain becomes possible because of a psychological development that begins at birth when the baby is separated from the protected atmosphere of the womb and is stimulated into wakeful activity.”

Evidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain is limited but indicates that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester. Little or no evidence addresses the effectiveness of direct fetal anesthetic or analgesic techniques. Similarly, limited or no data exist on the safety of such techniques for pregnant women in the context of abortion. Anesthetic techniques currently used during fetal surgery are not directly applicable to abortion procedures.

Pain is an emotional and psychological experience that requires conscious recognition of a noxious stimulus. Consequently, the capacity for conscious perception of pain can arise only after thalamocortical pathways begin to function, which may occur in the third trimester around 29 to 30 weeks’ gestational age, based on the limited data available. Small-scale histological studies of human foetuses have found that thalamocortical fibers begin to form between 23 and 30 weeks’ gestational age, but these studies did not specifically examine thalamocortical pathways active in pain perception.

What we can tell from various studies is at the stages of development abortion is performed the foetus cannot feel pain, is does not operate with a consciousness like you and I do.

In fact it would safe to say that a non-human animal’s consciousness is more developed than a human foetus.

If you are “Pro-Life” surely this goes for animals too?

The final part of the problem is the definition around “life” or the state of being ALIVE. Does life start when you are born? When you start to feel pain? When you start to be conscious? Or is it the second the cells are there? By that notion, are sperm consider a life? The sperm cell fit the definition of being alive, but are they “a life”?

Quality of life

Many of the Pro-Lifers I have talked to and read articles from seem to also be those who are any or all of the following:

  1. Anti-benefits
  2. Anti-free healthcare
  3. Anti-Veteran benefits

If you are so insistent on the foetus being born, why do you suddenly stop caring about it’s life the second it actually starts?

If you complain about single mothers claiming benefit, why do you insist on these single mothers having children?

“They shouldn’t have got pregnant in the first place!”

Really? Maybe not. How much do you know of this situation? What if they were raped? What if having the baby will kill them? What if it was an unfortunate accident? What if the educational system is so poor in the area that proper sex-ed is not taught so they were not fully aware of how the process works?

How can you make such a sweeping statement about someone’s pregnancy when you know nothing of it?

If you are truly pro-life, this should extend to post-birth, and to all humans. Perhaps even all animals on the planet.

Unfortunately so many of these questions are “refuted” easily with comments about God’s will and God’s plan. Therefore absolving the believer of all responsibility yet enforcing their views/beliefs on someone else’s body.

pregnancy from rape

So what does Pro-Choice mean?

It means that you believe that women are entitled to what goes on in their bodies. It means you empathise with the hard choice they might have to make. It means you recognise that there are circumstances where it is “the lesser of two evils”.

In the UK and US it is perfectly legal to eat pork. The Jewish religion forbids them from eating pork. Jews cannot and do not demand that everyone else not eat pork.

In the UK and US it is legal for women to have an abortion. The Christian religion forbids abortion (although not in a very direct way).  Christian’s cannot but do demand everyone be against abortion even though it is their own religious belief.

Christian’s can choose to follow their beliefs or not, but expect others to be held to the same standard even though they don’t share the same belief? The additional irony with the previous statement is that even though most dietary requirements were retconned in the Bible, there are still a few that exist. For example it is suggested that the meat consumed should not contain ANY blood and Paul of Tasus notes that some devout Christians may wish to abstain from meat. There are also the various verses in regards to alcohol and when you are supposed to have what strength and how much but Christians decide to overlook them. There are more verses about the items they can cosnume than there are about homosexuality.. but they think homosexuality is “icky”, alcohol is fun and rare steak* is “yummy” so they cherry pick.
*the red in steak actually contains very little blood and is instead myoglobin, but the point still stands.

Moral judgments are not legal judgments. Your personal beliefs are yours alone.

Pro-Choice literally means you are OK with people making choices for themselves.

Against this from a religious perspective?

If you’re against from a Christian/Muslim background, consider this:

  1. The foetus is in heaven now
  2. If your omnipotent God wanted to save the baby, he would/could have.
  3. The people involved will be “punished” in the afterlife. (Or maybe forgiven by your loving god)
  4. Don’t judge others, that is for your deity to do.  Mat 7:1-5, Luke 6:37-42 and many others.
    Stop trying to control people with your religion.

Whilst this is not what I believe as an atheist, it is what can be taken from your mythology.

Summary

Abortion is a very tough choice and an even tougher experience for those involved.

Instead of slamming those involved we should have some compassion for their situation, even if it is not something we agree with ourselves.

A few thoughts:

  • Foetuses do not experience or are not aware of pain at the ages they are aborted.
  • Foetuses consciousness is not developed.
  • If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one.
  • Stop judging others, I am sure you are less than perfect in some ways too.
  • If you are still against abortion, adopt all the children that would not have come to be without your anti-abortion tirade.

References:

  1. http://www.livescience.com/54774-fetal-pain-anesthesia.html
  2. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4905892.stm
  3. http://www.livescience.com/44899-stages-of-pregnancy.html
  4. http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/201429?hc_location=ufi



cofirmation bias conspiracy theorists fundamentalists and david wolfe

Confirmation Bias: Fanboys, Fundamentalists, Conspiracy Theorists and our Tribal Nature

Fanboys, Fundamentalists, and Conspiracy theorists are the prime users of Confirmation Bias.

In fact, everyone at some point has operated using confirmation bias based on their cognitive biases, but in most circumstances, you could drop them in to one of the above categories.

So let’s start with some definitions of the terminology shall we? We don’t want any Conflated or Misunderstood terms, do we?

Definitions

Fanboy/Fangirl

Someone who is obsessive, enthusiastic, and passionate over a topic/brand/toy etc. Generally, the thing the fan is obsessed with can do no wrong and are the best in their eyes, be they a fan of the PlayStation, DC comics, Star Trek, or Apple.

Fundamentalist

Usually applied to religious folk,  a “fanboy” of their faith. Essentially being a fundamentalist means they have a strict belief in a literal interpretation of their religious texts.

Conspiracy Theorist

A Conspiracy Theorist is a person who holds an idea that explains an event or situation as the result of a secret plan by usually powerful people or groups.

Confirmation Bias

The tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories. Essentially only listening to evidence/papers/ideas that back up ones preconceived notions.

Cognitive Bias

A cognitive bias is a mistake in reasoning, evaluating, remembering, or other cognitive process, often occurring as a result of holding onto one’s preferences and beliefs regardless of contrary information.

Cognitive Bias is perfectly natural and it would be almost impossible for humans to function if they had none in place. We would have to re-evaluate an analyse everything constantly. You know how you like your cup of tea, if you like it dark you will instantly assume a milky tea is disgusting. This is a cognitive bias. They are sometimes correct but can lead us down the wrong path.

For example assuming that because one person from one ethnicity did something bad to you in the past, that every person of that ethnicity would do it again. From here things like racism are born.

Conspiracy Theorists

The conspiracy theorist, as already described, holds an idea that explains an event as the result of a secret plan by powerful people.

Some current conspiracy theories (that won’t just go away)

  • Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t act alone (or possibly at all). …
  • Princess Diana was killed on purpose. …
  • AIDS is a man-made disease. …
  • The government was involved in 9/11. …
  • Elvis never really left the building. …
  • The 1969 Apollo moon landing didn’t happen. …
  • A UFO crashed in Roswell, New Mexico. …
  • Global warming is a hoax.
  • Shakespeare didn’t write all those plays.
  • Reptilian humanoids control all of us.

Consider how many of those seem ridiculous to you, now consider that the others might be just as ridiculous.

The issue with a conspiracy theorist is that their confirmation bias is so intertwined with mental loops and circular reason that you can NEVER get through to them. Any evidence, anecdotes, or hearsay that backs up their claim is evidence they are right. Any evidence to the contrary is clearly falsely placed by “the man” or “them”. It is an endless loop of confirming ones own bias and rejecting everything else.

The most dangerous current conspiracy theorist (at least in my opinion) is the Antivaxxer. Someone who is against vaccines saying they are dangerous and no one should use them.

This has lead to preventable diseases spreading, and in fact those that had all but been eliminated returning with a vengeance.

David Wolfe

Alternative Scientist David Wolfe Confirmation Bias
I recently had a conversation with David ‘Avocado’ Wolfe. I imagine the Avocado is linked to it being a “superfood” and how he goes on about the Nutribullet (which does happen to be quite a good juicer if that’s what you’re into, but I digress).

I knew David to be a bit of a new age hippy spreading peace and love. I thought him harmless till a last year I noticed him on the Antivax band wagon.

Then on Twitter I see him going on about the earth being flat. Outside of fundamentalist Christian and Muslims I had not heard of anyone thinking the earth is genuinely flat. At least not in modern culture.

I contested both his ‘Anti Vaccination’ and ‘Flat Earth’ stance. He quickly became irate throwing out insults, unable to answer most of my questions like “how thick is this flat earth” and made up terms like “Scientism” calling it a religion.

Essentially a conversation transpired that the earth is flat, we are being lied to about it because they are hiding land in/over Antarctica, and the earth is also hollow filled with giants and Germans. How the earth could both be hollow AND flat, how deep it was, what happens when one reaches the edge, how no one had seen this during expeditions… all unanswered.

Here are a few examples of the conversations I had with David Wolfe.

A photo posted by Answers In Reason (@answersinreason) on

A photo posted by Answers In Reason (@answersinreason) on

A photo posted by Answers In Reason (@answersinreason) on

A photo posted by Answers In Reason (@answersinreason) on

A photo posted by Answers In Reason (@answersinreason) on

Eventually he stopped responding because he couldn’t answer my questions. I tried for a while to reengage him but didn’t have any luck.  He didn’t support his claims, and when questioned either insulted or ignored.

Although a few days ago I did get this response from him:

A photo posted by Answers In Reason (@answersinreason) on

And again no further response. Perhaps my misspelling of believe annoyed him. Or perhaps the fact I actually provided ways to prove the flat earth myth is false scared him off.

Here are some links to them on twitter:
Flat Hollow Earth: https://twitter.com/answersinreason/status/798825019396587521
Fake Science: https://twitter.com/DavidWolfe/status/824414274374291456
ISS is fake: https://twitter.com/answersinreason/status/798880354237083648
Or in fact here are my tweets to him: https://twitter.com/search?q=from%3Aanswersinreason%20to%3Adavidwolfe%20&src=typd
Or his to me: https://twitter.com/search?f=tweets&q=from%3ADavidwolfe%20to%3Aanswersinreason&src=typd

The interesting thing with the conspiracy theorist is, other than the fact they are more likely to believe in a multitude of conspiracies, is that occasionally they will have one they find ridiculous. “That’s not possible and there is no supporting evidence” – when that happens my jaw drops. You can say “you understand that you think the same way about this conspiracy as others do yours. You don’t have any evidence either, just claims that “they” are out to get you” – but they don’t budge.

This happens with the religious too. How many religions believe their god is the true god and the other god claims are ridiculous? Yeah, most of them. Some are more accepting and just think your god is another aspect of theirs, but most have a “true god” “true religion” “everyone else is stupid” mentality.

Tactical Maneuvers

Mr Wolfe is either; a fantastic conman, or even scarier, truly believes what he is saying. Either way he generates money from selling his products and advertising on his site. Like him or not he is pretty successful, but how exactly does he do it?

I hypothesize he has a very particular formula that works really well for him.

  1. Normalisation – He posts some fantastic “positive vibe” memes.
  2. Sharing – Like a virus, his normalisation is shared on the web from those who like the positive messages.
  3. Trust – People start to trust him. There is a large number of people following and sharing his stuff. Friends you trust. Perhaps friends you think of as skeptical and science literate. You trust your friends, and your trust is passed on to Wolfe.
  4. Escalation – He then posts something slightly out there, perhaps about solar panels absorbing the sun’s energy.
    By this point, your brain has already built a cognitive bias. You find yourself agreeing without taking the time to think about it.
  5. Acceptance – Once you’re “in” to some of the minor pseudoscientific nonsense, it is easier to to buy in to the rest. Before you know it you’ll be engaging in the common vaccination arguments, flat earth nonsense, and all manner of fallacies.

Fundamentalists

Fundamentalists generally operate on confirmation bias and circular reasoning.

Religious fundamentalists tend to be literalists and inerrantists.

Literalist

Someone who believes their holy book is the literal word of their god

Inerrantist

Someone who believes their holy book is without error

Circular reasoning confirmation bias bibleThe above are quite circular. For example the Bible is the literal word of God. God is perfect, so the Bible is without error. We know the Bible is the word of God because it says so in the Bible and God is perfect so the Bible is without error.

That sort of logic is very frustrating, but is expected of many theists. They use the same sort of confirmation bias as conspiracy theorists. Anything that agrees with the Bible (or particular holy book) validates their claim and anything that disagrees can be rejected.

Claims, Evidence, and Primary Sources

There is a lack of understanding about claims and evidence.  The Bible is not the evidence. The Bible is the claim. The Bible, or at least some of its chapters, is/are the “Primary Source” of its information. When examining primary sources it is worth doing proper analysis.

For example Luke:

  1. Fails the time test – it is written after the fact.
  2. Fails the bias test – emotional involvement/desire to set up a faith.
  3. Passes the audience test – at least in the sense it probably wouldn’t be written differently for another audience.
  4. Fails the metaphor/symbolism test – it also contains reference to a Jewish prophesy.
  5. Fails evaluation – apart from failing 3/4 above it also fails to match up with any other historical documentation at the time. Check this expose on Jesus.

At best the Bible is a poor primary source. The Bible is mostly a secondary source.  If examined critically, without confirmation bias, you can see errors in the Bible. This doesn’t necessarily negate God’s existence but does cast doubt on the validity of the Bible. This is often why you find many theists reject any evidence that contradicts a biblical claim.

What would change your mind fudamentalist confirmation bias vs science

Fundamental atheism

Whilst atheism is not a religion; it is just the lack of belief in gods, there are many who take a very rigid or gnostic approach to every theistic claim. The atheist will take the approach that the theist is an idiot and wrong with whatever they are talking about. This is not the case at all. There are plenty of bright theists, and plenty of stupid atheists. Yes, I understand that in general theistic belief correlates with less intelligence, but to assume that every theist is stupid or wrong about everything just shows your own ignorance and stupidity.

Fanboys

It is so easy to become a “Fanboy/Fangirl”. All it takes is passion and bias. The first will be a cognitive bias (often wrapped in circular reasoning), eg “Apple phones are the best because they are made by Apple and Apple is the best”.

Any news that comes out that sheds positive light on your passion is a win. Every article where the “opponent” gets slammed is a win. Any article that poses any negativity about your passion is either false, a rare occasion, or not worthy of note.

I was an Android fanboy at one point. My fanboyism was actually born out of a hate for Apple fanboys. I was so sick of the attitude that “Apple is the best cos it’s Apple” – whilst the devices were well built I didn’t like how they operated. The way you were locked into their environment, the bloatware that is iTunes, the inability to just drag and drop music and have it playable… all things I didn’t like in the device and I saw most of the people who had them at the time had them more as fashion statements rather than actually having the savvy for a smart phone.

I found myself on a side, was very passionate, flamed those on the Apple side as “idiots” and other unnecessary insults. I was much younger at the time, less travelled, and far more arrogant.

Perhaps it is arrogance that is at the core of fanboyism and confirmation bias. I know best, therefore what I think is right, therefore anyone who disagrees with me is an idiot.

I grew up, I grew out of it. I am able to examine the positives and negatives of any device without the emotional angst. It taught me a lot. Not just about myself but about how people can be so blindsided by emotion. I’ve since tried to help people see when they are being biased but unfortunately it is a tangled web that one needs to want to untangle. I am still not a fan of Apple but I do see their merits, and they tend to have a fantastic build quality. They are right for some people, but not for me.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about fitness trackers.

We were in his car on the way to work with another friend and he mentioned wanting to get an Apple watch. I asked if it was primarily the fitness features or smart features he was after and he stated the fitness tracking.

I enquired as to if he had considered dedicated fitness trackers rather than an Apple watch. This simple statement started an argument. The driver is an Apple fan boy.

“Why would he want a different watch? The Apple watch is the best fitness tracker”

I enquired as to what he was basing that on, informed him the Apple Watch was more of a smart watch with fitness features and there were plenty of fitness trackers that would fit the bill.

I went on to explain all the research I did for my fitness tracker, how that there were some fitness trackers dedicated to specific activity, eg the Triathlon trackers focus on triathlon activity (running, swimming, and cycling) would be much better than an all round tracker. The reason I chose my Garmin Vivoactive HR is because I do a wide range of activity and one of the activities is swimming. There were not many all round trackers that did swimming, and less that did it well.

I explained the extensive research I did on it, noted its negatives like the poor sleep tracking and simple smart features, but based on all the reviews and features I found important it was right for me.

Unfortunately it descended in to him pretty much repetitively saying the Apple Watch is the best because it was Apple and they spend a lot of money making their devices the best. I stated that it was a fantastic smart watch but noted a few flaws with the smart features, e.g. inaccurate text to speech, all day heart rate, lack of GPS on gen 1, not transferring data to MyFitnessPal (but receiving it). We moved on to Gen 2 which is largely just a refinement with GPS, waterproofing and improved performance. If you think about how Apple release their phones the Apple watch 2 is the S version.

This fell on deaf ears. All he could hear me saying was “Apple is shit” – which was far from the truth. I had stated it was a good smart watch but was found wanting as a fitness tracker, just as dedicated fitness trackers with smart features are better at the fitness stuff. I said that people should examine their needs and look in to what suites their situation. A basic fitness tracker without swimming would be much much cheaper than an Apple watch, the fitness tracking would be better, and the battery would last much longer.

Eventually he said “Ugh lets end this, this is getting boring.” – I found that ironic as he was the one saying the same thing endlessly. Either “The Apple watch is the best” or “Everything I have read says the Apple watch is the best” – well yes, when you only look at Apple sites about Apple stuff it is going to say that…

But as you can see, when a cognitive bias is in place, reaffirmed with confirmation bias there is little you can do to sway the person. No matter how rationally you act, no matter how you admit the flaws of your point of view and acknowledge the benefits of their they wont shift in the slightest. They even take it as a personal attack, as my friend did. You could see how irate he was getting that I wasn’t saying it was the best.

You’ll also have to understand that this is my version of the story. Whilst I try to be as even and honest as I can there is every chance I am applying my own bias to this.

In a way, it is all fanboyism. Be it a fundamentalist fanboying over his inerrant faith, or a conspiracy theorist fanboying over his conspiracies. It is passion. Passion is great, but misguided passion can be dangerous, and at the very least leaves you ignorant.

I am prone to this kind of passion, so I have learned to be a bit more sceptical and fact check. I also lean on my critical friends to give me the appropriate kick when I need it. Unfortunately if you cannot let go of your ego, and be open to being wrong, you can’t grow as a person.

In fact when I say it is all fanboyism, a better way to describe it would be Tribalism.

Tribalism

Humans are prone to a tribalistic nature. It is how we survived the ages. We gathered together with those who were like us. Those that were different were often dangerous. This created an intrinsic xenophobia within us. “Those that are different to us are bad”.

You can see this anywhere you look too. Consider at school; how many were picked on for their music taste, hair cut, dress sense or sporting ability?
Look at the tribalistic nature of sports fans. Every team has a very “Us vs Them” attitude.
Look at religions, they are often opposed to each other, and most religions seem opposed to those without religion. There are still countries where atheism is illegal and punishable by death!
Gangs, politics, companies, brands and all the aforementioned are guilty of encouraging our inherent tribalistic behaviours.

There is no middle of the road!

Unfortunately those in a tribe, and of extreme point of view, don’t allow for people to have a middle of the road view.

I’m an analyst (and developer) by trade. I look at every situation and really struggle making decisions when I don’t have enough info, or can tell that there is lots of misinformation on both sides.

When it comes to politics I quite often protest vote (spoil my ballot) because I feel none of the candidates are up to the challenge. I want to be heard, but I want the system to change.

I also get pushed away by extreme points of view. You often see the various political tribes mocking the others. They don’t listen to each other, they don’t acknowledge the positives from each others parties. All that happens is insults and confirmation bias.

Unfortunately reasoning with an extremist is very difficult. The mentality is “If you are not with us, you are against us”. Whilst I understand this might have had an evolutionary benefit, it no longer fits in with our society.

I’ve spoken to some Republicans and questioned gun safety. I’ve said, “I think there should be more checks on people before they get their guns.” and in return have been called “A gun fearing libtard”. I actually quite like guns, I think they are cool, but I also think there are people that shouldn’t have them. They make killing too easy, too impersonal, and many are too unstable or vacant to handle the responsibility.

Similarly I have discussed employment with friends here in the UK. I’ve said the system should be changed to one that encourages people that can work, to work. That people should be helped find jobs rather than just filling in a piece of paper stating they have at the job centre. That even short term if the only thing available is a couple of days in Macdonalds the person should do it, the government makes up the deficit but they are contributing to society. That they and the job centre will still help them find appropriate work but it is a stop gap in the meantime.

Suddenly I am called a “Tory scumbag”. I have a family. If I lost my job, as much as I wouldn’t want to, I have no qualms taking a job that is “beneath” my technical expertise so that they, and I, can survive.

I don’t feel the system works. I know people that work the minimum they can because they earn more in benefit than they would if they had a full time job (at least until they had been in the job for a few years and earned the appropriate pay rises) and feel like “Why should I be miserable all week when I can work for two days and earn the same”.

I agree. Why should they? I am not saying to take away people’s benefit. There are many that need more benefit than they are getting, and there have been a few occasions where I have been out of work and was very grateful for the assistance. The point I was trying to get across is that there is a better way to go about unemployment. A way to encourage people to work. A way that people don’t feel like they are losing out by working. Perhaps this topic is moving too far from the point and I should expand on it in another article, or in our facebook debate group.

I don’t claim to have all the answers. I just think we should look at doing things differently  because the current approaches don’t seem to work. Neither does the all or nothing attitude. In fact when I raise these points in might inspire a better idea from someone else. Some of my views might be considered conservative, others liberal, and for the most part they are somewhere in between because I think we should strive for balance.

From the couple of examples I provided above, you can see what I mean about tribal nature. The “With us or against us” mentality.

So what can we do to ascend the tribe?

Unfortunately very little. It seems that even when we try and break off and do something original, there will be some that follow and others that ostracise. Until we learn to accept people for their personality and actions instead of our cognitive bias and fear we can’t really move forward as a people.

The entire time one tribe is mocking another, no progress will be made. We need to do our best to be understanding, patient, and empathetic. Acknowledge positives in your “oppositions” point of view, and maybe they will soften. Perhaps they will see points from your side too. Instead of opponents maybe you will become friends that hold some different points of view instead of being the enemies you perceive each other to be now.

ALWAYS FACT CHECK

The last piece of advice can give anyone is to fact check. Be it a meme, an article, and definitely anything that comes out of a politicians mouth.David Wolfe Confirmation Bias Solar Power

Always use multiple and reputable sources. .EDU links are generally quite reliable. Scientific articles with links to the peer reviewed studies are also a great resources. Don’t just accept any article claiming to be scientific. Fact check everything, even what we share.

Question too. I often see articles claiming X cures cancer. Ask them how. Ask them by what mechanism. Ask people what evidence they have to support their claim. If someone cannot provide any evidence then there is a good chance there isn’t any. Their claim is unsupported or baseless. Just like pretty much everything shared by David Wolfe.

sci-gasm podcast is not confirmation bias

^The Wolfe image above is a genuine quote from the longevity intensive. If you haven’t checked out the Sci-Gasm Podcast you should. It is brilliant.

Bonus Content

Whilst writing this article I shared a few of the images  of David Wolfe’s to our Facebook Page. The one that caught the most attention was the one about the ISS.

One of our fans took a picture of the ISS with his telescope. A Newtonian 200/1000 with DSLR mounted in prime focus.  He sent it to us and I got his permission to put it in the article because I wanted you all to see how easy it was to detect the ISS from earth.

He did say that there were many better amateur pictures out there that I should use but I wanted to use some content from our readers.

If you are interested in seeing the ISS for yourself check this article on how to spot the ISS. Let me know if you see any strings, balloons, or evidence it is a hologram!

The below Photo of the International Space Station taken from the space shuttle Endeavour on May 30, 2011. Image via NASA.
Also, notice the curvature of the earth!

Photo of the International Space Station taken from the space shuttle Endeavour on May 30, 2011. Image via NASA.

Read again?

If you wanted to read any of the sections again, or would like to link directly to them, then please use one of the links below:

Thank you for reading!




Conflated and Misunderstood Terms

Conflated and Misunderstood Terms Volume 1: Evolution

Misunderstood terms

Conflated and Misunderstood Terms

There are a number of conflated and misunderstood terms floating about the internet.

Some of these terms are colloquialisms, others are just a misunderstanding, while the bulk used have been taught erroneously to further an agenda.

Communication is a very important thing. If we cannot interact with each other on the same level then there are misunderstandings. If speaking to a theist about their particular god and you use the wrong name for their god they might take that as; a mark of disrespect, evidence you don’t know what you are talking about, or think you are speaking about a different god.

When you are talking about the Christian god; ‘God/Jehova/Yahweh’ are all acceptable terms (note the capital G). Even then some Christian’s will not accept any name other than God.

Similarly if you are speaking to someone who is science literate about science; using unscientific terminology is not going to further the debate.

When speaking about science we should use the scientific terms, and when speaking on theological matters we should equally use the theological terms.

This series of articles is designed to help resolve some of this conflict.

Conflated and Misunderstood Terms Volume 1: Evolution

Conflated Term: “The Origin of Life” and Evolution

“Evolution means life came from nothing”

Evolution

The transition of life from A to B through small gradual changes till speciation occurs

Origin of Life

How life started on earth

The Difference: Evolution requires life to exist to happen. The origin of life is a how life started.

what-is-abiogenesisWhen it comes to “The Origin of Life” we don’t know. There are a number of hypotheses, from gods to aliens but the one being thought of in this conflation is Abiogenesis. Abiogenesis is the process by which life arises naturally from non-living matter.

Evolution is constantly happening; it is gradual changes over time. The Theory of Evolution merely describes the processes which take place once life has started up.

Misused/Misunderstood Term: Macro & Micro Evolution

I’m sure you have heard, and maybe even used the terms Micro Evolution and Macro Evolution. Whilst created in 1927 by Russian entomologist Yuri Filipchenko the terms have been twisted to cast doubt on the process.

Micro evolution

Creationist version: Micro evolution describes the small changes over time… a creationist might even say “that’s not evolution at all, that is just adaption”.
Truth: All evolution is is those micro changes until speciation occurs.

Macro evolution

Creationist version: Macro evolution is thought of as a “change in kind”. For example: a cat turning into a dog.
Truth: This is not how evolution works. That’s not even what speciation is. Macro evolution is actually used to describe everything from Speciation and beyond.
I personally feel that splitting evolution into micro and macro scales is redundant as despite their differences, evolution at both of these levels relies on the same, established mechanisms of evolutionary change:

Speciation

The formation of new and distinct species

When Speciation occurs a new distinct species arises from a particular group. Often a particular group has changed so much it can no longer breed with its ancestral lineage. This is not always the case, modern wolves and modern dogs are interfertile but neither probably would be with their common ancestor.

Species

A group of living organisms consisting of similar individuals capable of exchanging genes or interbreeding. The species is the principal natural taxonomic unit, ranking below a genus and denoted by a Latin binomial, e.g. Homo sapiens.

A Species is a member of a genus which is a member of a family. Under a species is the subspecies. Dogs are a subspecies of Cannis Lupus, and they have evolved many different “breeds” through selective breeding.Taxonomy Terminology of species

Now whilst the taxonomy is not distinctly fixed in all cases, some might refer to sub species or breeds as species for example, the standard tree, pictured right, is probably the best way to view it.

Often the issue is just a “grey area” where scientists debate whether something is a subspecies rather than a distinct species. It can be argued that if the species is inter fertile with another, then it is a sub species rather than a species (eg modern dogs and wolves being subspecies of Cannis Lupus). In some cases even though a species is interfertile it is still considered a distinct species due to enough genetic differences.

When people say the taxonomy is not fixed for species, they are right in a sense due to definition of species and sub species and creatures that don’t exactly tick all the boxes of the definition.

Evolution occurs with every birth, as genes mix and mutations are carried over changes happen to each child both on the outside and in. If they didn’t we would look exactly like one of our parents. A clone if you will.

Here’s a short experiment you can try

Look at a picture of yourself, examine your features.
Now look at a picture of your parents, and note the similarities, the features you share.
Do the same with a picture of your grandparents, note the similarities between your parents and them. Examine at the features you also share.
Now look at a picture of their parents but only compare your grand parents to them. Move back for as many generations as you can just comparing one generation to the last.

In most cases you will note some distinct similarities from generation to generation. If you now compare the oldest picture to yours you probably won’t note any similarities unless there are some seriously dominant genes in that mix.

How many years could you go back though? 100? 202 years at most (first picture clicked in 1814). Imagine the differences over thousands of years. Now put that on the evolutionary calendar, which is thought to be around 3.8 billion years, you’d see a massive difference.

When the characteristics (genes) are different enough, they are classed as a different species, although some species can interbreed.

do not reject evolutionWe look to our ancestors like Homo Neanderthals or Homo Denisovans and we can see similar attributes but there are many clear differences, even in size and posture. That’s only going back hundreds of thousands of years… imagine millions, and then billions of years of changes.

Conflated Terms: Kinds and Species

I spoke quite a bit about what a species is in the last section, so I won’t bore you too much, but as a short recap

Species

A group of living organisms consisting of similar individuals capable of exchanging genes or interbreeding. A Species is a member of a genus which is a member of a family. For example Homo Sapiens (humans) is the species, a member of the homo genus in the family hominidae.

Kind

A group of people or things having similar characteristics.

When most people use “Kind” to describe an animal it is often used as either Family or Species. Often a fallacy of moving the goal post is introduced. When you can evidence how feline (Felidae) could evolve from a common Felidae ancestor suddenly the kind will be describing the family and you get statements like “You don’t get cat kind changing into dog kind”.

As already discussed, that’s not how evolution works. It is tonnes of small changes over time, and the time line is so big that end to end we can’t recognise our ancestors.

Just make sure if you debate someone who uses “kind” to get them to explain exactly what their definition of “kind” is, and you can compare it to the equivalent definition of yours.

Similarly if you are someone who uses “kind” consider how you might translate that into more scientific terms.

A Misunderstanding: Dawkins thinks Aliens did it!

Musinderstanding: richard-dawkins-aliensThis is a complete misunderstanding of what Dawkins has said. The truth is we don’t know what started life on earth. Whilst we have discovered RNA molecules it is only hypothesised what could have brought them into being. As such Dawkins is able to entertain the possibility that life on earth could have been kick started by aliens. Without enough evidence it will not be an idea he accepts.

Whilst Dawkins is well renowned in his field it would be unwise to just gleefully accept he or anyone else says without researching to see if it is based on any evidence. It is also important to understand the full context of any situation.

You might argue that you cannot perform the scientific experiments yourself. There are plenty of peer reviewed papers out there you can read. Scientists try and prove each other wrong all the time. Not to be vindictive, but in search of the truth.

Conflated and Misunderstood Term: Scientific Theory aka “Just a Theory”

One of the most frustrating things to hear in a debate is “Just a Theory”. It is an issue with Scientific Theory being conflated with the more colloquial “Theory”

Theory

An idea used to account for a situation or justify a course of action

The way theory is used is closer to what a scientist would regard a hypothesis, or if there is absolutely no evidence or logic to base your thoughts on a closer definition would be idea or put forward in an argument, a baseless claim.

Essentially a theory is a thought based on little to no evidence. An idea.

Scientific Theory (sometimes referred to simply as a Theory)

A well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world. The explanations are acquired through the scientific method. The evidence is repeatedly tested and confirmed. Scientific Laws are written, and a theory is compiled to explain them. A Scientific Theory can also be used to predict results.

In really simplistic terms you could translate “Theory of Evolution” to “The explanation of Evolution”. Perhaps with the caveat that the explanation was based on credible, testable and verifiable evidence.

just-a-theory-scientific-terminologyIf you use “Just a Theory” when referring to a Scientific Theory, then you are showing your ignorance. Unless you are wilfully ignorant I’d suggest making sure you understand the terms people are using in conversation. You are but a google search away if you do not understand anything someone says. Yes, there is misinformation out there but if you base your knowledge from factual sources instead of celebrities and social media you’ll get a better understanding of these terms.

I have a theory you won’t take any of this in. Prove me wrong.

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Davidian (25)
THE ‘FINE TUNING’ ARGUMENT DEBUNKED – Holy Koolaid

 




"virtual particle

Could a “virtual particle chaos” explain the origin of the universe?

In preparing to write the Deplosion series, I wanted to give my ideas as deeply scientific a basis as I could. My formal university training was in Computing Science and then in Molecular Biology and Genetics, so I’m no cosmologist. But Cosmology and Quantum Physics have always been hobbies of mine (begin “geek” comments now) so I thought I’d do my best to make a plausible hypothesis.

I found two sources to be amazingly helpful in putting these ideas together. The first is Lawrence Krauss’ fascinating book, “A Universe From Nothing.” The second is Matt Strassler’s website “Of Particular Significance”, in particular his discussion of virtual particles (https://profmattstrassler.com/articles-and-posts/particle-physics-basics/virtual-particles-what-are-they/).

But rather than yammer on about how I see this, I’m going to let Darian Leigh describe “his” theory in this excerpt from “The Reality Thief”:

"virtual particle

The observable universe is 90 billions light years across and contains over 100 billion galaxies.

“Today, I want to talk about what the universe might have looked like in the beginning, the Universe before the Universe, if you will.

“Since we’re not all physicists here, I’d like to start out by talking about the Big Bang, and how cosmologists think the universe began. From there, we’ll move on to nothing. What do philosophers, theologians, and physicists mean by the word, nothing? I’ll warn you now it’s more complicated than you think.  Then things are going to get a little strange for a while. I’ll introduce you to what I think of as the ultimate bits of nothing, virtual particles; how physicists think about them; why we’re certain they exist, even though they can’t be directly observed; and why they’re so important. And that will bring us to my most recent theories, which attempt to answer some of the most interesting and fundamentally important questions in our era, questions such as: How could real particles and the physical universe evolve from the virtual particle chaos that preceded it? Where do the ‘laws of nature’ come from? And, how can we test and apply these ideas?

“Let’s begin with something you’ve probably heard. Scientists believe everything in the universe began in a sudden expansion called the Big Bang, around 13.8 billion years ago. So, why do we think everything came from a Big Bang, a moment of creation? It is still a relatively new idea. The ancient Greeks, for example, believed that the universe was static; it had always existed.”

Darian put up a slide of the familiar Milky Way galaxy shown as it was projected to look from hundreds of light years above its elliptical plane.

“Until the mid-1920s, astronomers thought our own Milky Way galaxy, with its hundred billion stars, comprised the entire, never-ending universe. Then in 1925, Edwin Hubble used a 100-inch telescope at the new Mount Wilson observatory to prove there were other galaxies outside ours. Suddenly the universe was a lot bigger and more interesting.”

The slide changed to a famous picture compiled by the Hubble telescope, showing the thousands of galaxies visible to it in what used to be thought of as an empty portion of the sky.

“Around the same time, a physicist, named George LeMaître, constructed a mathematical model based on Einstein’s theory of relativity. His model concluded that the universe was expanding from an initial Primeval Atom. But nobody believed him, not even Einstein. A few years later, Hubble showed that not only was the universe expanding, but the farther away from us a galaxy was, the faster it was moving away.

“Since then, we’ve looked at millions of galaxies, using far more powerful telescopes, like the orbital Hubble, the James Web, the Wukong 3, and they all confirm what Professor Hubble saw over a hundred years ago. When you rewind the motion of the fleeing galaxies, you can project that all matter must have, at one time, occupied the same point in space from which it expanded outward in a Big Bang.

“These calculations and observations put an end to the idea of a static universe. For a while, some people believed that perhaps the universe was oscillating through periods of expansion and contraction, eternally being re-created. But our best calculations today suggest this universe is going to go on expanding forever. There’s not enough matter for gravity to pull it all back together. There’s no contraction in our future and there probably wasn’t in our past, either.

“But not everyone has been satisfied to leave it at that. There’s a simple problem with the idea of a Big Bang: where did everything come from? If there was nothing here before that, what was it that exploded? What caused the expansion?

”Our best cosmological answer is still: nothing. However, the physicist’s definition of ‘nothing’ is quite different than the philosophical idea of nothing. And precisely defining ‘nothing’ in a way that satisfies everyone turns out to be exceedingly difficult, more difficult than one would imagine. Both sides agree that something can’t come from absolutely nothing. So how do you get around the problem that there is, obviously, something?

“Let’s look at the philosophical theologians’ perspective first. Christian ideas about creation, for example, along with those of many other religions, assert the existence of some deity, God, if you will, who is outside of time and space, who has always existed, and who created the universe from absolutely nothing.

Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling

Darian changed the slide from the image of thousands of distant galaxies to a picture of the famous Michelangelo paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, showing the Christian God in the act of Creation.

“Let’s think about that for a minute. Theologians say, ‘God is not made of anything.’ In other words, God is outside the universe of matter and energy, outside of space and time. Still, He is powerful enough to make something from nothing. But is this really nothing, even a philosophical nothing?

“As I see it, there are two possibilities that fit with this traditional religious model of creation. Either the universe was created as part of God, or there was something in existence, or potentially in existence, apart from God, before He supposedly created the universe from it.

“If the universe came from a part of God, and the universe is made from ‘something,’ then it seems logical to conclude that God is made, at least in part, of ‘something’ as well, especially if the universe is still a part of God. On the other hand, if God created the universe apart from Himself, then whatever He made it from was either ‘something’ or had the potential to become ‘something’.

“Some theologians speak of ‘an empty room,’ separate from God, with absolutely nothing in it. But ‘an empty room’ is a location, a space separate from God. So, that’s still ‘something,’ isn’t it? Either everything was God at the beginning, or there was something, maybe only an empty space, that wasn’t God. In the end, the Creationist idea of an omnipotent God creating the ‘something’ of the universe from ‘absolutely nothing’ fails logically.

“So, we’ve arrived at one conclusion. The argument that a Creator God existed before the universe is not substantially better than the Greek static model of the universe. The Greek model doesn’t fit our observations, while the Creationist model simply moves the static, eternal part into an adjacent universe, containing an intelligent, willful being. It does not say how this universe containing a purposeful, omnipotent God came about. Nor does it explain how or why a potential universe, a space adjacent but separate from the universe of God, an empty room—from which or where He created everything—could exist. It is illogical.

“What does physics have to say about all this? What kind of natural ‘nothing’ could have existed before the Big Bang, according to physics?”

The next slide was a pure black image.

“In quantum mechanics, ‘nothing’ is generally interpreted as space devoid of stuff, without matter or energy. The nothing of physics is not the same as the nothing of philosophy or religion, so physicists call it something different, a quantum vacuum. A quantum vacuum is empty of matter and energy, it contains no things. But it’s not completely empty; it’s full of virtual particles.

“Aha, you say, that’s still ‘something’! Well, yes, and no. Virtual particles are called ‘virtual’ because they’re not real. In a quantum vacuum, they’re as close to nothing as physicists can imagine. Virtual particles simply pop in and out of existence all the time.

unicorn“I know this sounds completely ridiculous and unreal to many of you. You’re thinking, he might as well say unicorn as virtual particle. It would make as much sense. An imaginary thing for an imaginary thing, right? What would that sound like? Unicorns come in balanced pairs: unicorns and anti-unicorns. One of the unicorn types can travel some distance for a very short time before recombining with an antiunicorn of the same type. When they combine they are both annihilated. This happens over such a short time and distance that unicorns can’t be observed. Nevertheless, unicorns have real effects that can be observed.

“Sounds silly, I agree. Except they’re not the same. Unlike unicorns, virtual particles are more than just an idea. How do we know that?

“We use virtual particles to explain such things as quantum tunneling. That’s a well-documented phenomenon where an electron can disappear from one side of an insulator and instantly reappear on the other side, in spite of the barrier. All of our modern electronics containing quantum dot, field effect transistors depend on this tunneling effect.

“Ordinary static electricity is a virtual particle phenomenon. It’s a field composed of the virtual particles emitted by moving electrons inside a charged material. Virtual particles allow us to calculate the exact wavelengths of light emitted by heating pure elements with astounding accuracy; within one part in a billion, or 0.0000001 percent. So we accept the virtual particle theory because it allows us to make the most accurate calculations in all of science.

“Now, many of you may have heard of the two kinds of real particles, fermions, and bosons. Fermions are particles such as quarks, electrons, or neutrinos. The bosons carry forces between the fermions. Bosons include photons, gluons, Higgs bosons, and so on. We can calculate how these real particles and the virtual particles are related.

MushroomCloud“Everyone remembers Einstein’s famous E=mc2, right? Energy equals mass times speed of light squared? An atomic explosion converts mass into energy. Most people don’t realize that Einstein’s equation works in the other direction, too. When you put enough energy in one place, that energy gets converted into mass.”
He displayed an image of the familiar mushroom cloud from an atomic explosion. That was shortly replaced by a strange-looking image full of weird blobs, representing the interactions between virtual particles and quarks inside a proton.

Virtual particles inside a proton

Virtual particles inside a proton

“The binding energy that ties virtual particles together inside a real particle makes up the majority of the mass of that real particle. Indeed, about seventy-percent of the mass of a proton comes from the energy created by the virtual particles bound together inside of it.

“Another way to think of real particles is as complete standing waves in the quantum field. What does that mean? Well, think of each real particle as a string that loops back on itself. The looped string represents a wave in the quantum field. If a wave is of the correct frequency, relative to the size of the loop, when it reaches the end of the loop, it starts all over again, creating what we call a standing wave in that loop. Kind of like when an audience at a football game performs a wave that goes all the way around the stadium, and starts over again. Real particles, standing waves in a loop, are stable.

Standing waves in loops

Standing waves in loops

Virtual particles, on the other hand, are just incomplete sections of a complete standing wave. They’re highly unstable, transient, and do not last long enough for us to even observe.

“We have recently shown that every known real sub-atomic particle can be modeled, not as a solid speck or ball, but as a boiling collection of randomly appearing and disappearing virtual particles that somehow manages to maintain a consistency of behavior in the aggregate, that is, in the collective whole.

“How do these chaotic, erratically behaved virtual particles—these incomplete waveforms—become nice, stable standing waves? The short answer is, through resonance. Two resonant—or compatible—waves on the same looped string reinforce each other. When they match the natural resonance of the string, they form a stable standing wave.

“So, imagine we have a partial wave in a quantum field, and it meets up with another partial wave of the same frequency. The second wave ‘completes’ part of the first wave. And, if you put enough of these resonant partial waves together, you create a full standing-wave pattern. And, bingo, the virtual turns into the real. The sections that overlap are redundant and fall out of the resulting real particle as excess binding energy.

“That makes reality, the universe as we know it, an emergent phenomenon of interacting virtual particles, of things that don’t really exist in a measurable way. Poetically speaking, one might say that the physical nothing of the quantum vacuum is filled with an infinite number of tiny bits of imagination, existing without dimension, for no time. That sounds like a whole lot of unicorns, I mean, ‘nothing’ to me.”

Very few laughed. An unusually high number stared back, stone-faced, uncomprehending, fidgety and silent. What, no laughs? C’mon, surely that line was funny. Wow, tough crowd—he thought, but it was more than that. There was a pervasive tension, a nervousness, building out there. Something’s up. He took a sip of water and returned to his lecture, uneasy.

“An entire universe filled with nothing but virtual particles would be very chaotic, yet it would appear completely empty to us. Virtual particles of all kinds would spontaneously appear, perhaps briefly interact with each other, and disappear. Most of these interactions would be extremely short-lived because the incomplete waves of one particle would likely not resonate with the incomplete waves of incompatible, neighboring virtual particles. Either the natural resonances, the type of the virtual particles, wouldn’t match or else they’d be too far out of phase.

“Now, at last, we come to the question that has motivated my research team: How could a universe full of these poorly behaved, chaotic virtual particles give birth to the well-behaved universe we see today, via the mechanism of the Big Bang? How can we conceive of a completely natural mechanism of real matter evolving by a kind of natural selection from virtual matter? Without the intervention or initiation of any intelligent creator. In other words, without God.

“The problem of spontaneous creation of a universe from nothing is not really a problem of the creation of energy and matter. As we’ve established, what we used to think of as nothing, is actually full of stuff. The quantum vacuum, deeper than the deepest vacuum in outer space, is crowded with energetic virtual particles.

The Big Bang

The Big Bang

“The problem is: in the universe before the Big Bang, these virtual particles had not yet evolved a consistent set of stable, well-behaved associations with each other. They existed, in a sense; they just didn’t exist stably.

“Our newest theory came from thinking about this problem. That led us to the next question, which led to the next, and so on. Questions like: How could these virtual particles that filled the great nothingness before the Big Bang achieve stable associations in an otherwise chaotic universe? How could stable virtual particle interactions spread from one pair to another?

“Our best theory is that an orderly universe would start to distill from this chaotic brew of virtual particles by resonance, as I’ve already described. By chance, out of the unfathomably huge numbers of different ill-defined interactions, some of these virtual particles found themselves adjacent to other virtual particles whose waveforms happened to resonate.

“A very rare, low-probability event would eventually place numerous virtual particles, each with sufficient overlapping chaotic oscillations to produce a complete resonance, adjacent to each other. Eventually, this would lead to a standing wave in the quantum field. Such standing waves would be the first real particles and would provide ‘little islands of stability’ in an essentially chaotic universe.

“The standing waves of these real particles would interact with the incomplete waves of nearby virtual particles. Our models show, after many, many interactions—too many to count—these interactions could eventually lead to larger stable domains in the otherwise chaotic universe. All of this would have taken place with ridiculously low probability. But before the Big Bang and the causality that we know and love today, even ridiculously low probability events were essentially guaranteed to happen eventually.

“These resonances formed the basis of the rules that determine how matter and energy interact, the laws of nature if you will. The laws evolved from these interactions; they were not designed or imposed by an external force. The resonances, leading to the ways in which particles formed and interacted, arose by chance from infinite possibilities. Now, the universe that was formed through this process, our universe, still shares the same space with infinitely many other possible virtual universes. However, these other possible virtual universes have been unable to form a stable set of interactions and become real.

“This is different from the so-called multiverse theory, which states every universe that can exist, does. That’s correct to a certain extent, but only our universe ever became real, that is to say, stable. All other possible universes remained virtual, never forming a stable relationship between enough of their member virtual particles to coalesce into reality. They’re all still out there, those many other possibilities, interacting, appearing, vanishing. Rather boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

Darian switched to a slide showing a traditional analog stopwatch with a ticking second hand. The image was overlaid with a large question mark.

“I’ve got another brain twister for you. Consider the ridiculously high—practically infinite—number of interactions that would have to take place, along with the ridiculously low probability of just the right bits coming together precisely when, where and how they needed to. Got that? Now, given all that, how long do you think it took for our universe to come together, to evolve naturally from chaos? Anyone want to venture a guess?” Darian looked around to see if there were any takers. The second hand moved on the overhead slide. He let them suffer for only a few seconds before jumping back in.

“No takers? Well, I don’t blame you; it was kind of a trick question. In a universe struggling to come into existence as I’ve described, the question, ‘how long’ is meaningless. There is no way to measure time before the first stable interactions were in place. The chaotic universe was eternal, lasting forever. Time was immeasurable as far back as one could possibly imagine. Without cause and effect, time has no direction. In such a universe of chaos, we can roughly define time as something like event opportunities. According to this definition, we can see there would be adequate time for a real universe to evolve. Event opportunities are essentially infinite.

“Another question we’ve been scratching our heads over is: How could that lead to the Big Bang?

“What we’ve come up with so far is this. While partial waveforms of virtual particles are easily able to share the same space, standing waves of identical real particles, particularly those we call fermions, are not. This is called the Pauli Exclusion Principle. Remember those little islands of stability I mentioned earlier? As more and more of those interacting domains of stability appeared, a sufficiently large nucleus accumulated.

“The effect those domains had on adjacent virtual particles through resonance became overwhelming. New real particles sprang into existence as the stable interactions started to spread outward, mediated by their resonance effect on adjacent virtual particles. The nucleus of real particles expanded faster than the speed of light because the resonant effect of virtual particles is not limited by the speed of real photons.

“Virtual particles coalescing into real particles in this way hate to occupy the same space. They rushed to get away from each other. This led to the release of a huge amount of energy, the culmination of which, we call the Big Bang. Although, I think it would be more accurate to say, the Big Bloom.

The Big Bloom

The Big Bloom

“Our universe blossomed out of the chaos, rather than exploded. A region of stable reality spread into the surrounding area where only non-coherent virtual particles had existed previously. I suspect the process is still ongoing at the edges of the real universe, which continues to expand into the infinite chaotic virtual universe faster than the speed of light.

“In this way, the ancient Greeks were right: our universe has existed forever. There was a universe of chaotic virtual matter going back forever before the Big Bang. That virtual matter is the source of our universe, and the stable interactions that evolved between coalescing virtual particles are what we think of as the laws of nature.

“I realize that what I’ve described to you sounds extraordinary, certainly less than obvious. Science is, above all, pragmatic. We can make up all the outlandish theories and hypotheses we like, but they can only become scientifically accepted after they are tested against the reality of the universe. Reality is always the final arbiter of truth.

“So how can we test these ideas I’ve described? How do we go from wild conjecture to scientifically sound knowledge? We can’t exactly go back 13.8 billion years into the past to test the origin of the universe, nor can we go trillions of years into the future to see how it all turns out.

“Now here’s where it gets really interesting. We believe we can develop a machine capable of generating complex fields that will increase and select interactions among other virtual particles. Particles other than the ones that led to real particles in our universe.” Darian noted a couple of dubious faces peering up at that comment.

“Once these virtual particles are coaxed into their own resonance, they will form tiny universes with their own natural laws, laws different from our own.” A few more furrowed brows appeared.

“We call these fields ‘Reality Assertion Fields’ because they assert a new set of natural laws on a region of space. It turns out that a Reality Assertion Field, or RAF, is surprisingly easy to generate. All we have to do is compute the shape of a field that will encourage the selection of these new resonances between adjacent virtual particles within the RAF.

“We can use any field, but electromagnetic fields are the easiest to generate. The hard part is computing the shape of the overlap of a large number of EM fields so we can encourage the specific resonances we desire among the various virtual particles in a portion of space. The math gets a little difficult, as you might imagine.”

That line drew an appreciative chuckle, at least from the physicists in the audience. Darian checked in with his lattice sub-routine again. No one, other than the Reverend LaMontagne and the strangely unremarkable man had raised any further alarms within his algorithm. He would keep an eye on those two during the Q&A session, which was only a minute away.

“My group is now in the process of building a very fast and powerful computer, and developing new types of mathematics, which we will use to calculate the fields required to generate a new RAF in a very small volume—about one hundred cubic centimeters—of a nearly perfect vacuum.

“Once completed, we will probe this region with a variety of tests to make sure that it has physical properties different from those specified by the laws of nature in our own universe. We expect to be able to demonstrate that our principles are correct within the next few months and, from there, I anticipate some very interesting new science unfolding.”

Among the sea of confused, bored, or frustrated faces looking back, Darian counted a disappointingly small number of individuals still exhibiting rapt attention. In his distraction, he failed to see the ire building in a number of the protestors seated in Theatre 3. Darian consulted his lattice. Thirty-five minutes! “I apologize for the lengthy lecture,” he offered, sheepishly. “It’s easier to explain with the math but, unfortunately, that makes it harder for most people to understand.” He nodded at Dr. Pratt to resume control of the meeting and stood off to the side.




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The Only Thing Cured By Homeopathy Is Prosperity

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What Is Homeopathy?

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The first thing that we must do when addressing this topic is to explain what Homeopathy actually is.

A common misconception about Homeopathy is that it is synonymous with Herbalism and natural remedies, but this couldn’t be further from the case.

Herbalism is the use of naturally occurring plants in treatment for diseases, disorders, and conditions. This, in cases, has been brought into the fold of modern medicine. Take Aspirin for example, which is derived from the bark of a Willow tree.

However, Homeopathy has no necessity for it’s ‘treatments’ to be ‘natural’ in nature. As an example, there is a Homeopathic ‘remedy’ which has it’s so called active ingredient being a part of the Berlin Wall. Now, I could be mistaken, but I feel fairly certain in my ability to claim that the Berlin Wall was NOT naturally occurring.

So. What IS Homeopathy?

Homeopathy is taking infinitesimally small amounts of an ingredient, and applying that to a sugar pill to treat conditions.

There are three basic ‘laws’ of Homeopathy, which they claim make their treatments effective, and I will outline these below.

 

 

Law Of Similars.

homeopathy-803_250px

The Law Of Similars is the claim that a symptom can be cured by the taking of a substance which causes the same symptom. For example, if a person is suffering from abdominal pains due to stomach ulcers, the Law Of Similars would state that this can be treated by giving the patient a substance which causes indigestion. The thinking (and I use the term loosely) is that the body will learn how to deal with the symptom on its own, and therefore be able to remedy itself, even if it is a completely different cause.

A common argument presented by Homeopaths is that it is the same principle as vaccination, so if modern medicine accepts the basis for vaccination, it therefore must accept that it works for Homeopathy. Without going into the specific fallacies in this statement by name, it is more than obvious to anybody with a rudimentary understanding of the immune system as to why this is not the case.

I’m not going to go into a detailed description here of how vaccines work (I’m sure that our readership understands this well enough, and a quick Google search will provide FAR better explanations than I can sensibly include here.)

But I feel that it is obvious to anybody who puts any real thought into it that the more causes for a symptom you have, the worse that symptom will become. If I have a headache, and then do four more things which cause headaches, my pain level certainly isn’t going to reduce.

 

 

Law Of Infinitesimals.homeopathy-1

The Law Of Infinitesimals is the idea that an active ingredient gets stronger, the less of it there is. Which of course we all know to be true. If I put only one coffee granule in my cup of boiling water, I will obviously end up with a much stronger cup of coffee than if I’d used a whole spoonful.

Wait….

Of course this idea is absolutely absurd, and I personally cannot think of a single example where this is even close to being true.

But the lengths of this absurdity when applied in Homeopathy surpass even the ridiculous example of my morning coffee.

When one sees a Homeopathic ‘remedy’ for sale, you may notice that it includes a number, followed by the letter C.

This C stands for Centesimal.

1C would be 99 drops of water, with 1 drop of the ‘active’ ingredient put into it. 2C would be to take that 1C solution, take 1 drop out of it, and add it to a new vial of 99 drops of water. 3C would be to take 1 drop out of the 2C solution, and do the same again. 4C takes 1 drop out of the 3C, 5C takes 1 drop out of the 4C, etc etc etc.

So for 1C we have 1% ‘active’ ingredient

2C is 0.01%

3C is 0.001%

4C is 0.00001%

So we can see how absurd this is, even at 2 or 3C.

But the problem doesn’t end there. Homeopathic ‘remedies’ are often sold at 6C, or even 30C. So to carry on our above percentages.

6C is 0.0000000001% ‘active’ ingredient.

30C is 0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001% ‘active’ ingredient! And this is somehow supposed to be STRONGER than the 1% 1C solution!

 

 

Law Of Sercussion.

watermemory

The Law Of Sercussion is the strangest of them all (which considering the other 2 laws, is really saying something.) Sercussion is the idea that a solution can be ‘potentised’ by causing vibration between each act of dilution. This is achieved by tapping the container which is holding the solution against a ‘firm but giving’ surface. This is commonly leather, and also commonly, and worryingly, a bible.

The ‘potentisation’ comes from the idea that this vibration gives the water molecules a memory of the ‘active’ ingredient, and therefore is able to have the same affect even after the ingredient itself is gone.

So, just to summarise this quickly.

If I have a glass of water with something in it, hit it with a bible, then clear out all traces of the original thing, the water will remember and be able to emulate it. Because science, apparently.

How exactly this memory is supposed to work is beyond me. There is absolutely no mechanism which would give water the ability to remember something, no matter how many time you thump it with a Holy Book.

 

 

 

Weighing The Probabilities.

The following are some ballpark figures, outlining how likely you are to actually find some of the original ‘active ingredient’ in your Homeopathy

Feet on a bathroom scale - Isolated

1C = 1:100 chance. Or the equivalent chance of picking at random the first and second place horses in a 15 horse race.

2C = 1:10,000. Or the equivalent chance of being on a train car with 41 people, and randomly having to share a compartment with the three others in the group you can’t stand.

3C =1:1,000,000. Or the equivalent chance of picking all 5 of the only red balls in a container of 43 multicoloured balls.

4C = 1:100,000,000. Or the equivalent chance of picking one person out of the whole Japanese population.

6C = 1:1000,000,000,000. Or the equivalent chance of randomly picking 1 star in 10 Milky way sized galaxies.

12C = 1:1000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Or the equivalent chance of picking out one specific atom in a gram of Hydrogen.

13C = 1:100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Or the equivalent chance of picking one specific water molecule from a litre of water.

26C = 1:10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Or the equivalent chance of finding one specific atom which makes up the planet Earth.

30C = 1:1000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.Or the equivalent chance of finding one specific atom from a hundred solar systems like ours.

 

 

Problems In Production.

fda-disapproved

As well as all of the previous issues that have been raised and discussed, we also have a significant problem with how these ‘remedies’ are sometimes produced.

The largest producer of homeopathic ‘medicine’ in the U.K (who I will not name here, due to our absurd Libel Laws, and the litigious nature of such companies) was investigated by the F.D.A due to them selling their product in the U.S.A. The results can be found here in full, but I shall provide a summary below.

The results of this investigation are damning, to say the least.

The method of production used in this factory is to have a conveyor belt of normal sugar pills, each stored in a glass vial. As the vial reaches the correct part of the process, a drop of the homeopathic solution is dripped into the top of the vial, and it then goes through into the final packaging process.

So we have one obvious issue here. In a vial of a few pills, only the top one in the container is actually getting any direct contact with the solution in question. Even with a large drop being applied, we can fairly safely assume that the top pills get quite wet, the middle pills get a bit wet, and those at the bottom almost certainly remain completely dry.

Furthermore, the F.D.A. found that 1/6 of the vials didn’t even get any of the solution whatsoever. The drop which was meant for the vial missed completely, or dripped down the outside of the vial, missing the sugar pills contained within.

Many thanks to Markus Kruger for his help in finding the statistics for me.




Preying

Faith Healing: Miracle or dirty scam preying on the desperate and gullible?

1j4q69szMy money is on faith healing being a dirty scam preying on the desperate and gullible but I guess I had better not just leave it at that and present some kind of reasoning behind my conclusion.

Exposed

The James Randi Million Dollar Challenge. Job done!! Hmmmm, it would make for a very short article if I left it at just this, and I guess I should present a couple of premises just to add weight so let me digress.

We can start with the wonderful James Randi. Here is his bio from Wiki:

James Randi (born Randall James Hamilton Zwinge; August 7, 1928) is a Canadian-American retired stage magician and scientific skeptic who has extensively challenged paranormal and pseudoscientific claims. Randi is the co-founder of Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and the founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). He began his career as a magician under the stage name, The Amazing Randi, and later chose to devote most of his time to investigating paranormal, occult, and supernatural claims, which he collectively calls “woo-woo”. Randi retired from practicing magic aged 60, and from the JREF aged 87.

Although often referred to as a “debunker“, Randi has said he dislikes the term’s connotations and prefers to describe himself as an “investigator”. He has written about the paranormal phenomena, skepticism, and the history of magic. He was a frequent guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and was occasionally featured on the television program Penn & Teller: Bullshit!

James Randi

Mr James Randi

Prior to Randi’s retirement, JREF sponsored the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, which offered a prize of US$1,000,000 to eligible applicants who could demonstrate evidence of any paranormal, supernatural or occult power or event under test conditions agreed to by both parties. The paranormal challenge was officially terminated by the JREF in 2015. The foundation continues to make grants to non-profit groups that encourage critical thinking and a fact-based world view.

Randi’s One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge was somewhat swamped by crazy claimants so they had to eventually limit it to well known personalities in the faith healing, TV psychic world. There were very few takers, Yuri Geller had a few attempts but strangely under controlled circumstances he was never able to perform his psychic acts. Randi’s people reached out and directly invited several other personalities such as “psychics” Sylvia Browne, Leigh Catherine (aka Leigh-Catherine Salway), Rosemary Altea. They all accepted but then failed to make it happen. One cited as saying, “As expected – dodgy as legally & set up to make it impossible to pass!”.

No faith healers were up to performing their “miracles” under Randi’s clinical environments. Zip, zero, diddly squat, nada and none!! If the mountain won’t come to Mohammed then Mohammed will come to the mountain, and that is just what Randi did. He used his investigative skills to expose several high profile charlatan faith healers Including A. A. Allen, Ernest Angley, Willard Fuller, WV Grant, Peter Popoff, Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson, and Ralph DiOrio. He reported his findings and debunking in his book The Faith Healers which had the added bonus of a foreword by the great Carl Sagan. He went on to expose the likes of Peter Popoff, James Hydrick. You can see videos here relating to Yuri Geller,  James Hydrick and Peter Popoff by clicking on their names.

And it is not just James Randi exposing these con men. The TV show Inside Edition expose Leroy Jenkins, ABC News have run reports on PrimeTime Live exposing W V Grant. Grant for instance relies on the fact that religious people wish to preserve the illusion and dont want to give him away. He will grab up a cane next to a member of the audience and tell them not to use it and to run up and down the aisle. The cane will however belong to the person next to the runner and the runner actually has a wrist problem. He will seat walking audience members in wheelchairs and get them to stand and walk, just in case he has agents and confederates in the crowd.

Here we have a full length documentary by Derren Brown called Miracles For Sale where he shows the tricks used by “healing pastors” and how easy it is to trick the gullible. This is a multi-million dollar industry, make no mistake about it. Video here

So far I have just mentioned US faith healers, I have been given a handful of names of some Nigerian pastors fleecing the believers in West Africa with promises of blessed handkerchifs being able to raise the dead. This is the claim of Pastor Enoch Adeboye. The internet is awash with Christian websites warning their congregation not to give this man money. Here let me google that for you .

leg-lengtheningTricks of the trade

Lengthening legs simply slipping a shoe off slightly

Healing blindness and deafness is usually partially sighted people of hearing impaired being asked if they can hear or see. Truth is they could hear and see what they were asked to before the “healing”

Healing the lame is the charlatan grabbing the walking stick of the person next to someone that is not lame and getting the afflicted person to walk or run in the aisle.

Pastor giveth, pastor taketh away is when a healer tells a believing member god told him that the member had cancer but he could cure it with his healing hands. Then when the member is tested for cancer some time later he has a “miraculous” bill of clean health.

Hired stooges are employed to fake illness or disability

Psychic surgery is sleight of hand and chicken guts

Causing pain to a believer and specifically talking about this pain as opposed to the pain they are afflicted with usually. Then releasing a grip which is causing the pain and asking if they still feel the caused pain.

The falling faithful is achieved through suggestion. Hypnotic states induced through induction. Repetition of phrases and so on.

Ex-Faith Healer Mark Haville Explains the Tricks of the Fake Faith Healing Trade

Why, oh why, oh why?

Quite obviously on the part of the believers it is desperation to save them from terminal illness or crippling pain. One can understand their desperation, but why do they believe it works?question-mark

There are several reasons we will look at:

Group fervour and chemical release

In my article The Science of Belief I went in to some detail regarding the release of chemicals.

We just need look to the ancient Kung San tribe from Africa or the Australian Aborigines. Homo sapien religious ritual can be traced back to these 2 ancient people’s. Stemming from very different parts of the world yet their rituals share striking similarities, song and dance and trance like states. Activities which engage some of those previously mentioned powerful brain chemicals. The birth of religious fervour, throw in a crowd and you have group fervour. Serotonin and dopamine are released in these activities. More so if we are engaging in movement, the more strenuous the more will be released. Pleasure responses in the brain firing like crazy. Lets add some epinephrine, norepinephrine, endorphines and finally some oxytocin, the love chemical. The chemical released in great amounts at childbirth which help the bond between mother and child.

These chemicals are natural pain killers.

placeboPlacebo effect

Today, we know that patients who are given empty injections or pills that they believe contain medicine can experience an improvement in a wide range of health conditions.

This kind of fake or empty medicine is often called a “placebo”, and the improvement this causes is called the “placebo effect”.

One well-known example of the placebo effect involves a physical feeling we are all familiar with: pain.

In 1996, scientists assembled a group of students and told them that they were going to take part in a study of a new painkiller, called “trivaricaine”.

Trivaricaine was a brown lotion to be painted on the skin, and that smelled like a medicine. But the students were not told that, in fact, trivaricaine contained only water, iodine and thyme oil – none of which are painkilling medicines. It was a fake – or placebo – painkiller.

With each student, the trivaricaine was painted on one index finger, and the other left untreated. In turn, each index finger was squeezed in a vice. The students reported significantly less pain in the treated finger, even though trivaricaine was a fake.

In this example, expectation and belief produced real results. The students expected the “medicine” to kill pain; and, sure enough, they experienced less pain. This is the placebo effect.

Read a summary of the study: Mechanisms of Placebo Pain Reduction. – Courtesy of NHS UK

Desperation and trust

I cannot blame someone that has lived a life in pain or with a disability trying anything at all. I can blame the charlatans that wilfully take these poor individuals money knowing full well they can not cure them.

The believers hold the pastor as a trusted authority figure and do not question his abilities.

In this article Sorry, I’ll Pray for you my fellow contributor Davidian lists some of the dangers of inaction relating to not seeking medical attention due to illogical beliefs.

In Summary

So there are some liars, cheats, con men and charlatans which have been exposed, but this obviously doesn’t mean all are, however we just need to ask a few simple questions to throw light on the matter.

When will one of the healers cure an amputee?

When will one cure someone under strict lab conditions?

When can we expect healers to go to hospitals and cure the sick for free?

When can we expect them to rush in to areas with outbreaks of Ebola or similar?

Why do faith healers head straight for the hospital when they are afflicted by a health problem?

 

Until we see them attempting some of these tasks I would say we can deduce they are not miracle workers and merely dirty scam artists preying on the desperate and gullible.

I do hope this article has thrown some light on the subject for our readers – Until next time take care and question everything

Alan the Atheist

 

All rights to Metallica:  \m/      \m/

Leper Messiah – Master of Puppets 1986

Spineless from the start
Sucked into the part
Circus comes to town
You play the lead clown

Please, please
Spreading his disease
Living by his story

Knees, knees
Falling to your knees
Suffer for his glory, you will

Time for lust, time for lie
Time to give your life goodbye
Send me money, send me green
Heaven you will meet

Make a contribution
And you’ll get a better seat
Bow to Leper Messiah

Marvel at his tricks
Need your Sunday fix
Blind devotion came
Rotting your brain

Chain, chain
Join the endless chain
Stinking by his glamor

Fame, fame
Infection is the game
Stinking drunk with power, we see

Time for lust, time for lie
Time to give your life goodbye
Send me money, send me green
Heaven you will meet

Make a contribution
And you’ll get a better seat
Bow to Leper Messiah

Witchery, weakening
Sees the sheep are gathering
Set the trap, hypnotize
Now you follow

Time for lust, time for lie
Time to give your life goodbye
Send me money, send me green
Heaven you will meet

Make a contribution
And you’ll get a better seat

Lie, lie, lie, lie
Lie, lie, lie, lie

 

 

 




Anti-Vaxxers Know they are right

Why Anti-Vaxxers are Right!

Anti-Vaxxers are Right! Vaccinations are bad! Stop persecuting diseases! All biological life matters!

The less one is educated or the lower one’s intelligence is, the more easily one could be swayed by emotions and terrified by facts.

This fear of the facts creates an aversion to them and strengthens belief in the factoids they are comfortable with.

Anti-Vaxxers Know they are right confirmation bias

Women are often considered to be more emotional than men, and as such women are (apparently) more likely than men to be anti-vax*.

“When it comes to making decisions about vaccines, women are likelier than men to place trust in the wrong places.”http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2015/02/women_and_vaccine_resistance_mothers_make_health_care_decisions_for_their.html

This is not limited to women of course, I previously mentioned how my emotions were played upon in my article about “Trust”. Perhaps the reason for it seeming like women being a bigger player in the anti-vax world is due to parenting. It is often just the mother at home with the child, especially after birth during maternity leave.  This in turn leaves the mother to make decisions about the child’s immunisation. A quick google search is enough to scare anyone with misinformation.

The decision to be an anti-vaxxer (creationist, flat earther, or any kind of conspiracy theorist) is an emotional one.

As such it is unlikely to convince an anti-vaxxer they are wrong, especially not with things like “facts” and “evidence”.

You either agree with them and you are both wrong, or you provide them actual evidence and get called a “Pharma Shill” whilst they dig their heels in.

Even if you move past the evidence of vaccinations being safe and go on to examine how the average doctor lives; with their 60+ hour weeks and wages that can range from;  $50k up to $400k for the top of the range specialist/consultant in the US, or UK doctors who have an even lower salary of £37k-£80k.

Mecola the anti-vaxxer (anti vaccination) dick

And “Dr” Joseph Mercola of Mercola.com happens to live in a giant mansion that he has got by peddling pseudoscientific nonsense you will not get anywhere. Anti-vaxxers are so stuck in their opinions they believe Mercola deserves their money.

Dropping the bombshell that he is frequently given warnings about illegal claims on his site only further goes to strengthen how you are a “pharma shill” and “part of the conspiracy”.

Check: http://www.quackwatch.org/11Ind/mercola.html for more info.

So what can you do to convince Anti-Vaxxers they are wrong?

Didn’t you read the title of the article? Anti-Vaxxers are right. There is nothing you can do to convince them otherwise.

The best option we have is properly educating the young. We need greater scientific literacy around the world. We need to teach people to make decisions based on evidence and not what they “feel” is right.

You can read Common Anti Vax Arguments 1 and 2 to see the things they come up with. You can use the articles (be it by link or copy and paste) to debate with them should you wish. Perhaps you will get lucky and convince the odd one that they are wrong; but in my experience with these issues they have to learn they are wrong for themselves. And then once they have the epiphany that they are wrong they have to struggle with the issue of pride and not only admit to themselves they are wrong, but others too.

It is at this point they often falter  and double their efforts to convince people. If they can get others to believe, maybe they will again too.

Is it worth debating Anti-Vaxxers?

No point in arguing with anti-vaxxers

As with any group that seems to be devoid of reality, there is little point in debating them if you expect a positive result. The benefit could be to someone else who may be curious or on the fence. This is why it is important to remain calm, eloquent, and avoid both ad homniem and insult. If you can remain calm whilst making them splutter and insult you only go further to endear other readers to you.

Unfortunately debating Anti-vaxxers, like debating creationists, can be very frustrating. It is hard to remain calm when all that is going round your head is: “You’re a delusional idiot!”

Are most Anti-Vaxxers Really Women?

*There is some minor contrary information to this article around the average anti-vaxxer in a survey done by qz.com.

Their survey only consisted of “at least 2300 people across America” – considering the population is 324 million (using the US worldometer for population) that data set is 0.0007%. I would suggest it is as anecdotal as the experiences the AIR team have had with anti-vaxxers both on and off the internet.

In the interest of fairness we are going to post the results and compare to our findings. – Both data sets should be taken as anecdotal. I also don’t really like the “pigeon holing” of groups of people. It causes bias against a particular type, but understanding where the problem lies may hold the key to fixing the issue.

Men

56% anti-vaxxers are men and 44% are female.

We have found this to largely be women, in fact we have only met 1 male anti-vaxxer. The only other male anti-vaxxers we are aware of are the ones selling you stuff like Mercola.
That is not to say they are not out there though.

Not necessarily parents.

Having kids didn’t affect the likelihood of respondents to declare themselves against vaccines.

This is a very vague figure. I am not sure what % are “not necessarily parents”. I agree, they don’t have to be.
Our experience has been that they are though. Often ones that have had vaccinations themselves.

In lower income brackets

People earning less than $25,000 a year are 50% more likely to distrust vaccines.

Sure, blame the poor. Look at all those poor people in Africa dying to get vaccines. We get there  and they say “Get away from me with your medicine you pharma shill!” – I think not.

I can’t say for sure how much the American antivaxxers I have spoken to earn, but the ones that I have had a nose through their profiles have houses and cars that look pretty decent.Perhaps the issue they are finding with that bracket is the education issue. In America education costs a lot a college level, and a lot of the schools in poorer areas are not great. Perhaps it is rather a lack of education rather than being poor that results in being anti-vax.

45 to 54 years old

People in this age group are 26% more likely than any other to oppose vaccinations.

This is a common theme I have noticed. Often the older people who have had their vaccinations and seen the end of diseases are now suddenly anti-vax.

Midwestern

Citizens living in the Midwest region appear more likely to have “closeted” anti-vaccine sentiment.

Having spoken to people online I have not seen a particular area produce more anti-vaxxers than another, but I don’t have enough data.

Live in rural areas

Rural dwellers are 28% more likely to refuse vaccines.

Not something I have noticed, but possible.

Liberal

60% of anti-vaxxers describe their political leaning as liberal.

This is interesting, as generally the anti-vaxxers I have met are either conservative, Christian, or Conservative Christians.

The only other type Anti-Vaxxer I have met is the die-hard conspiracy theorist.

Alan agrees with the above, yet Kriss’s experience is a little different and agrees with the Liberal stance. However he agrees with the other factors we put forward throughout this.
^As you can see, we are not above having a differing opinion, and our data set is just as limited as theirs. If we get more data, and results differ, we are not above changing our opinion either.

Regardless of political stance they often seem to be of the mind: “well, doctors still don’t understand the complexity of the human body, so we should trust nature to do what it does best.” – which you might usually attribute to a liberal/hippy but I have met some conservatives that adopt this approach too.

Further going to prove my point that you can’t really pigeon-hole people. When there are Conservative Anti-Vax Wiccan Hippy Homeopath Trump supporters (yes, I know one) you can’t really say a particular type of person ticks any one box. Except maybe the “trying not to be in a particular box” box. ♫ Little boxes, little boxes… and they all look just the same.

Non-college educated

People with a high school diploma as their highest education level are 11% more likely to be against vaccines.

That makes sense. The less educated are more likely to believe sensationalised media and random blog posts on the internet.
Their self-education is mostly limited to, “My friend said”.

Don’t go to doctors

anti-vaxxers are 88% more likely not to have seen a doctor in the past year.

I suppose if you are paranoid and don’t trust doctors you wouldn’t trust vaccines. This is not something I can verify either way.

Don’t care about the environment

anti-vaxxers are 30% more likely to be “not concerned at all” about the environment and climate change.

Interesting. The ones I have met are usually the “anti-gmo” and seem to have an environmental concern, even if it is a little misplaced.

Don’t think their votes matter

People who oppose vaccines are 69% more likely to feel like their vote doesn’t matter.

Douch vs turd sandwhichDoes anyone think their votes matter? When your choice is between a douche and a turd sandwich the only thing you are voting for is the lesser of two evils.

Perhaps when there is the option for, “None of these bad vibe merchants!” more people will come out and vote.

If you continue to the end of their article it suddenly is defending wealthy conservatives. It seems like this information is geared in the way to blame the poor and the liberals.

Whilst I agree a lack of education is often a big part of the anti-vax mindset, and those who are in poorer families might have a worse education, this is not the only factor.

Perhaps if we actually gave everyone a genuinely equal opportunity to healthcare and salary we would see an end to the anti-vax issue.

The whole time people believe in and argue over their fairy tales I don’t see us moving forward as a species.




The Science Of Belief

beliefHaving studied psychology for only a year I must admit I am only something of an armchair expert so this article is going to lean heavily on several sources. One is this most excellent and totally non-heinous video by the great Darkmatter2525Watch the video here

Another source is from a book gifted to me by one of my fellow writers here Colin Jones. The book is titled “why we believe in god(s) by J. Anderson Thomas Junior., MD

Indoctrination from childhood and propensity to believe

We are born with an innate trust for our parents. We hang on their every word and soak in everything they impart to us in our young, maturing, sponge like brains. We are innocent and naive. I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church, but am a fallen christian for a couple of decades now, yet when an ambulance whizzes past I still have to fight the urge to make the sign of the cross on myself as I was raised to believe this ritual would in some way help the person inside the vehicle. This really sucks as I now live next to a hospital, but it is evidence of the effect of what I was taught by family members as a child. I know now that it won’t, that their fate is in the hands of the paramedics and other various medical staff that will attend to them, yet the urge is always there.

I was 3 years old when I started primary school. Already primed with bedtime biblical stories I was sent to a catholic primary school where I was subjected to 1 hour a day of bible class for the next 8 years. As an infant we were praised for already knowing the tales we were studying and the new trust relationships forming with those now imparting knowledge was forming. The new trusted educators were relaying bible stories as true fact. Why would I question them at this young and formative age? Well I wouldn’t, it would be very rare for a child to and the church relies on this. They try to get to you before you are 8 years old when the ability to reason is such that you can form clear questions. They want you to already be accepting of their myths by then. This is how indoctrination works and our propensity to believe those we innately trust.

Davidian has written an article which you can read here which goes in too much more detail regarding trust.

Familial, peer and geographical pressures

We can usually determine that which is a ridiculous claim from something that can be shown to be true, however if you have been raised in a house where all your family believe a ridiculous claim, and this house is on a street where all the people believe the ridiculous claim and that street is in a county/region where everyone believes this ridiculous claim and finally that region is in a country where everyone believes that ridiculous claim then your view is skewed(or perhaps screwed). It will appear to you that anyone not believing that ridiculous claim is the one to be ridiculed or pitied perhaps, or just plain wrong. You are less likely to apply the same rigours you would usually apply to discern that which is real. The ridiculous claim is taught from a young age and reinforced by the trusted people and the large community, add to that many years of this being reinforced and the ridiculous claim is well seated in the person’s mind as “the norm”. Thank you Darkmatter2525

Need to assign agency and attachment

We are home alone and we hear a noise or see a movement. Our heart skips a beat as we automatically assign an agent to the event, this is known as Hyperactive Agency Detection and is an evolved protection mechanism. We assume the presence of the otherwise undetected as we have a propensity to humanise most everything. We mistake a shadow for a burglar, but not a burglar for a shadow. The limb of a tree outside our bedroom window was conceived as a bogeyman when we were children. See how it works? Similarily our ancestors assigned agents to occurrences such as a bolt of lightning to Zeus or Thor or a tidal wave to Poseidon, or more recently earthquakes to Jehova because of same-sex marriage. A divine attachment figure. This carries through to creation myths and is a fallacious argument we hear quite often. The earth exists so it must have a creator, divine attachment when it can be explained naturally.

God the father, the catholic priest we call Father, the nun we call sister or the mother superior, the monk that we call brother. This is really tapping into formed neural networks we have already associated with trusted family members. When young and helpless these are the people we would have turned to and organised religion has latched on to this. They have adopted “caretaker” names. We can look back through the fossil record to see remains of our early ancestors. We can see those that were abandoned as they would slow down the tribe, this is prevalent in our earlier ancestors who had not yet evolved the brain capacity to employ empathy, then in later hominids we see fossils of remains that could not have survived as long as they did unless cared for by the tribe. the birth of empathy which also tied in with larger cranium sizes, particularly in the area of the brain where empathy is processed. These attachments are rife throughout life, the family pet the child’s blanket, and the indoctrinated theist to their deity(s). Also plays in to kinship.

Upsy

 

 

This ties in nicely with the associations to authority figures. The father and the mother, add in a uniform and respect from the community and the cleric/pastor is elevated, and is considered an authority when he is telling you a god exists.

One glaring association we have for attachment is the “Upsy” gesture of an infant. The arms outstretched to be held safely by its caretaker. Look familiar??

 

Ego and vanity

  ego
noun
  1. a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance.

It doesn’t play well to many people’s ego or naturally occurring vanity that we are less hairy, upright walking apes. Many would prefer to believe(incorrectly) that we are a chosen people and the highest amongst all organisms on this earth. To imagine that we are animals is just too much of a kick to the vanities that it could not be considered, no matter what DNA evidence or phylogeny shows to be fact. Cognitive dissonance of the highest order, and look there is a book which makes us Daddy’s favourite child, insert scripture here to support confirmation bias

And guess what, we are also made in his “most perfect” image and designed to similar perfection, well as the story goes. We need to ignore the triple curved spine, the need for hip and knee replacements, the appendix that is ready to kill us, the air intake hose next to the food entry hose and please don’t forget to wipe front to back!!

Mind, body and soul

Studies showed if a child is shown a puppet mouse being eaten by a puppet crocodile and is then asked if the mouse could still eat and would it miss its mother, they are most likely to know it can no longer eat but they believe it can still miss its mother. They automatically split body actions from mind. An assumed duality, a separation of the physical action and mental action or a split of the mind and body. For the proposition of a soul to be conceivable there must be a duality and this experiment shows the duality is hardwired in to us. The children attributed to a dead mouse a mental state that they were unable to conceive no longer existed.

 Decoupled cognition and theory of mind mechanisms

Mind reading? Of sorts yes. We have developed skills to read people’s facial expressions and body language. We evaluate likely thoughts and feelings in others. This sets us up for set behavioural patterns for those invisible agents we assume to exist. We already saw we personify them, now we get to attribute certain human traits and behaviours.

Picture being back at school and realising in the morning before class that you have forgotten to do a piece of homework. We can quite accurately imagine the response we will receive from our teacher. This is no different to what early humans did while writing their scripture. If we behave in this manner our god will do this or that!!

We rehearse our apology in advance as we try to figure the best way to butter up the teacher. This is decoupled cognisance.

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; Exodus 20:5

Above they assign a human trait they know and understand to the god

Forgive us our sins and those who have sinned against us – The Lord’s Prayer

Here is an example of the rehearsed apology and a buttering up of the deity because they believe that asking for salvation of others in the same breath as their own selfish request may appease their god.

Mind theory is how to appease that god while working in conjunction with him – Building a temple in his honour, this will please him. If he is pleased we will have good fortune.

Thank you Dr Thompson – I did a little more than summarise your words here.

Intensionality

First order                    “I believe”

Second order                “I believe that God wants”

Third order                  “I believe that God wants us to act with righteous intent”

Fourth order               “I want you to believe that God wants us to act with righteous intent”

Fifth order                   “I want you to know that we both believe that God wants us to act with righteous intent”

A social relationship is formed. A shared intensionality.

Religious fervour

In days gone by many religious ceremonies were accompanied by ritual drug taking. Great fun I am sure, but under the right circumstances our brains are more than capable of releasing naturally occurring powerful brain chemicals manufactured within our own bodies that creates an equally powerful natural high. This simple physical chemical reaction is conceived by many believers to be a spirit entering their body and touching their very soul…. Just ask the ancient Kung San tribe from Africa or the Australian Aborigines. Homo sapien religious ritual can be traced back to these 2 ancient people’s. Stemming from very different parts of the world yet their rituals share striking similarities, song and dance and trance like states. Activities which engage some of those previously mentioned powerful brain chemicals. The birth of religious fervour, throw in a crowd and you have group fervour. Serotonin and dopamine are released in these activities. More so if we are engaging in movement, the more strenuous the more will be released. Pleasure responses in the brain firing like crazy. Lets add some epinephrine, norepinephrine, endorphines and finally some oxytocin, the love chemical. The chemical released in great amounts at childbirth which help the bond between mother and child.

By chance our ancestors discovered activities to set all these chemicals free, creating highs and formulating bonds between it’s practitioners. Religion, most likely from the Latin “Religare” which translates to bond or tie.

As tribes split then some added rituals or others omitted some, then associations were formed with those that do the same rituals. This is seen still today in the various sects of various religions.

Our inner voice or the voice of a god

Dr Michael Persinger conducted a series of experiments in the 1980’s using “The God Helmet”. He blocked sight and sound perception and used his helmet to generate magnetic waves that stimulated the temporal lobes. The subjects reported feeling the presence of “another”. The religious subjects described it as their god. Persinger used this to argue that we do not possess the capability to fully distinguish between the self and the feeling of the presence of god if we are primed to believe a deity exists. The god feeling can be induced.

Also the temporal lobe is critical for speech, hearing the voice of god is simply your own internal voice, compounded by persons with frontal lobe epilepsy relaying heavy religious experiences while fitting. Was Paul or Muhammed a sufferer?

Studies from Pennsylvania University show high frontal lobe activity during chanting by monks, speaking in tongues by Pentecostals and monks meditating. Go figure!!

 A need for justice

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. We are all familiar Exodus 21:24

From a young age it is noticed we crave a fairness. As we get older we see are exposed to more acts of evil occurring globally. We have a justice system which deals with those caught and convicted of their crimes. Some get away with it and we as a species crave them to be punished so it is nice to have a safety net that if they get away with it in this life then they can not sneak it past a god in the next and will receive their punishment there. Our lust for justice abated by our spiritual caretaker father. Job done!!

 

Conclusion:

So there you have it. A brief(2200 words later) glance in to the psychology and neuroscience of belief. There is much that has been left out and research continues. . There is a feel good factor from chemical release, from having a caretaker protector at hand and from social bonds. A norm is set in communities and by those we trust so this shapes belief, anything else is alien, but it all boils down to it all being in the mind of the individual!!

A short paper titled : Brain Networks Shaping Religious Belief

If you got this far then thank you for reading – Alan T. A.

Thanks again to Darkmatter2525 and especially Colin Jones and Dr J. Anderson Thomas Junior., MD

Sources: why we believe in god(s) ISBN 978-098449321

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




The Evolution Of Evolution – From Darwin To Modern Synthesis

Why arguing against Darwinian Evolution is pointless!

Darwin 2

In my experience the anti-evolution movement loves to spout vitriol at Darwin and his theory. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to explain to opponents in debate that the theory of evolution has not just been Darwinian for around 100 years. Arguing against Darwinian evolution is pointless because of this. The arguments, no matter which corner of the globe the debater hails from, are all the same and clearly stem from pseudoscience religious websites which seem only to be geared up to support a confirmation bias of the theist looking to support their preferred belief. The theist would have to lack the most basic of knowledge of biology and the sites capitalise on this. Honestly if you wish to try to debunk evolution you need to study the theory and understand it. You will not stand a chance of refuting it if you rely on the pseudoscience of these charlatans.

Below are some statements from Henry D Morris from ICR Discovery Center:

These statements inadvertently show that evolution on any significant scale does not occur at present, and never happened in the past, and could never happen at all.

First of all, the lack of a case for evolution is clear from the fact that no one has ever seen it happen. If it were a real process, evolution should still be occurring, and there should be many “transitional” forms that we could observe.

Evolutionary geneticists have often experimented on fruit flies and other rapidly reproducing species to induce mutational changes hoping they would lead to new and better species, but these have all failed to accomplish their goal. No truly new species has ever been produced, let alone a new “basic kind.”

Given that evolution, according to Darwin, was in a continual state of motion . . . it followed logically that the fossil record should be rife with examples of transitional forms leading from the less to the more evolved.

 

Kirk Cameron CrocMorris is relying on the reader not entering fruitfly speciation into a Google search and seeing that speciation has been observed. Speciation is simply the evolutionary formation of new biological species, usually by the division of a single species into two or more genetically distinct ones. Morris wants his reader to believe speciation is a horse giving birth to a new “kind” of animal which is not a horse but this is so far from what evolution predicts it is laughable. A couple of observed speciation events listed here. Observation 1, Observation 2. With regards to transitional fossils he would hope his reader pictures this as the famed Ray Comfort/Kirk Cameron Crocoduck type animal.

Oh by the way here is a link to a fossil which is quite close to the crocoduck

 

Tiktaalik

Tiktaalik is a transitional fossil.

Morris can observe a list of the transitional fossils he does not believe exists here and explanations of what transitional fossils really are here, or they can be seen in most natural history museums.

A brief description of the original theory can be found here. “Just a wiki” so not as academically profound as I would usually link to but honestly this was the nicest and most concise and precise write up I found.

There is no denying the brilliance of Darwin’s theory but it was not perfect, nor complete. Darwin didn’t know how Natural selection worked. He tried to plug the gap with a Pangenesis theory and got it horribly wrong.  Also Darwin only figured out 1 mechanism that drove evolution, natural selection

It is just a pity Darwin did not live to see DNA sequencing.

Using DNA

Evolutionary biology was revolutionized by the discovery of DNA. Mutations, researchers realized, change the spelling of the cookbook. A single base pair may change, or a set of genes may be duplicated. Those mutations that confer a selective advantage to an individual become more common over time, and ultimately these mutant genes may drive the older versions out of existence.

Thanks to the discovery of DNA, it is now possible for scientists to identify not just the genes, but the individual bases. Before the discovery of DNA, scientists could only uncover the evolutionary tree of life by comparing the bodies and cells of different species. Now they can compare their genetic codes, working their way down to the deepest branches of life dating back billions of years.

Yes, Darwin made mistakes but there were many layers to the theory and getting part wrong does not mean the entire theory is wrong. Also I should point out that the natural occurrence of evolution is a fact, the theories which explain this fact may be wrong in parts or on the whole or it may be added to as new information surfaces but that doesn’t mean evolution is not happening.

Moving forward – Modern Synthesis

The study of evolution is the unifying concept in evolutionary biology. Evolutionary biology is a conceptual subfield of biology that intersects with other subfields that are delimited by biological organisation level (e.g., cell biology, population biology), taxonomic level (e.g., zoology, ornithology, herpetology) or angle of approach (e.g., field biology, theoretical biology, experimental evolution, palaeontology). Usually, these intersections are combined into specific fields such as evolutionary ecology and evolutionary developmental biology. [1]

But the modern synthesis looks beyond biology to support evolution.

Other Mechanisms

This description would be incomprehensible to Darwin since he was unaware of genes and genetic drift. The modern theory of the mechanism of evolution differs from Darwinism in three important respects:

  1. It recognizes several mechanisms of evolution in addition to natural selection. One of these, random genetic drift, may be as important as natural selection.
  2. It recognizes that characteristics are inherited as discrete entities called genes. Variation within a population is due to the presence of multiple alleles of a gene.
  3. It postulates that speciation is (usually) due to the gradual accumulation of small genetic changes. This is equivalent to saying that macroevolution is simply a lot of microevolution.

 

PopulationPopulation Genetics

Population genetics is a field of biology that studies the genetic composition of biological populations, and the changes in genetic composition that result from the operation of various factors, including natural selection. Population geneticists pursue their goals by developing abstract mathematical models of gene frequency dynamics, trying to extract conclusions from those models about the likely patterns of genetic variation in actual populations, and testing the conclusions against empirical data.

Population genetics is intimately bound up with the study of evolution and natural selection, and is often regarded as the theoretical cornerstone of modern Darwinism. This is because natural selection is one of the most important factors that can affect a population’s genetic composition.

By working out mathematically the consequences of selection acting on a population obeying the Mendelian rules of inheritance, Fisher, Haldane and Wright showed that Darwinism and Mendelism were not just compatible but excellent bed fellows; this played a key part in the formation of the ‘neo-Darwinian synthesis’, and explains why population genetics came to occupy so pivotal a role in evolutionary theory. [2]

   

animals-mating-4 evolutionReproductive and Geographical isolation

Ernst Mayr’s key contribution to the synthesis was Systematics and the Origin of Species, published in 1942. Mayr emphasized the importance of allopatric speciation, where geographically isolated sub-populations diverge so far that reproductive isolation occurs. He was skeptical of the reality of sympatric speciation believing that geographical isolation was a prerequisite for building up intrinsic (reproductive) isolating mechanisms. Mayr also introduced the biological species concept that defined a species as a group of interbreeding or potentially interbreeding populations that were reproductively isolated from all other populations. Before he left Germany for the United States in 1930, Mayr had been influenced by the work of German biologist Bernhard Rensch. In the 1920s Rensch, who like Mayr did field work in Indonesia, analyzed the geographic distribution of polytypic species and complexes of closely related species paying particular attention to how variations between different populations correlated with local environmental factors such as differences in climate. In 1947, Rensch published Neuere Probleme der Abstammungslehre. Die transspezifische Evolution (1959 English translation of 2nd edition: Evolution Above the Species Level). This looked at how the same evolutionary mechanisms involved in speciation might be extended to explain the origins of the differences between the higher level taxa. His writings contributed to the rapid acceptance of the synthesis in Germany. [3]

The mechanisms of reproductive isolation or hybridization barriers are a collection of mechanisms, behaviors and physiological processes that prevent the members of two different species that cross or mate from producing offspring, or which ensure that any offspring that may be produced are sterile. These barriers maintain the integrity of a species over time, reducing or directly impeding gene flow between individuals of different species, allowing the conservation of each species’ characteristics. [4]

The mechanisms of reproductive isolation have been classified in a number of ways: those that act before fertilization (or before mating in the case of animals, which are called pre-copulatory) and those that act after. These have also been termed pre-zygotic and post-zygotic mechanisms. The different mechanisms of reproductive isolation are genetically controlled and it has been demonstrated experimentally that they can evolve in species whose geographic distribution overlaps (sympatric speciation) or as the result of adaptive divergence that accompanies allopatric speciation. [4]

symbiosisSymbiotic origin of eukaryotic cell structure

Once symbiosis was discovered in lichen and in plant roots in the 19th century, the idea arose that the process might have occurred more widely, and might be important in evolution. Heinrich Anton de Bary invented the concept of symbiosis; several Russian biologists promoted the idea; Edmund Beecher Wilson mentioned it in his book The Cell in Development and Heredity (1925); as did Ivan Wallin in his Symbionticism and the Origin of Species (1927); and there was a brief mention by Julian Huxley in 1930; all in vain because sufficient evidence was lacking. Symbiosis as a major evolutionary force was not discussed at all in the evolutionary synthesis.

The role of symbiosis in cell evolution was revived partly by Joshua Lederberg,  and finally brought to light by Lynn Margulis in a series of papers and books. Some organelles are recognized as being of microbial origin: mitochondria and chloroplasts definitely, cilia, flagella and centrioles possibly, and perhaps the nuclear membrane and much of the chromosome structure as well. What is now clear is that the evolution of eukaryote cells is either caused by, or at least profoundly influenced by, symbiosis with bacterial and archaean cells in the Proterozoic.

The origin of the eukaryote cell by symbiosis in several stages was not part of the evolutionary synthesis. It is, at least on first sight, an example of megaevolution by big jumps. However, what symbiosis provided was a copious supply of heritable variation from microorganisms, which was fine-tuned over a long period to produce the cell structure we see today. This part of the process is consistent with evolution by natural selection. [5]

EndosymbosisEndosymbosis

Biologist Lynn Margulis first made the case for endosymbiosis in the 1960s, but for many years other biologists were skeptical. Although Jeon watched his amoebae become infected with the x-bacteria and then evolve to depend upon them, no one was around over a billion years ago to observe the events of endosymbiosis. Why should we think that a mitochondrion used to be a free-living organism in its own right? It turns out that many lines of evidence support this idea. Most important are the many striking similarities between prokaryotes (like bacteria) and mitochondria:

  • Membranes — Mitochondria have their own cell membranes, just like a prokaryotic cell does.
  • DNA — Each mitochondrion has its own circular DNA genome, like a bacteria’s genome, but much smaller. This DNA is passed from a mitochondrion to its offspring and is separate from the “host” cell’s genome in the nucleus.
  • Reproduction — Mitochondria multiply by pinching in half — the same process used by bacteria. Every new mitochondrion must be produced from a parent mitochondrion in this way; if a cell’s mitochondria are removed, it can’t build new ones from scratch.

When you look at it this way, mitochondria really resemble tiny bacteria making their livings inside eukaryotic cells! Based on decades of accumulated evidence, the scientific community supports Margulis’s ideas: endosymbiosis is the best explanation for the evolution of the eukaryotic cell.

What’s more, the evidence for endosymbiosis applies not only to mitochondria, but to other cellular organelles as well. Chloroplasts are like tiny green factories within plant cells that help convert energy from sunlight into sugars, and they have many similarities to mitochondria. The evidence suggests that these chloroplast organelles were also once free-living bacteria.

The endosymbiotic event that generated mitochondria must have happened early in the history of eukaryotes, because all eukaryotes have them. Then, later, a similar event brought chloroplasts into some eukaryotic cells, creating the lineage that led to plants.

Despite their many similarities, mitochondria (and chloroplasts) aren’t free-living bacteria anymore. The first eukaryotic cell evolved more than a billion years ago. Since then, these organelles have become completely dependent on their host cells. For example, many of the key proteins needed by the mitochondrion are imported from the rest of the cell. Sometime during their long-standing relationship, the genes that code for these proteins were transferred from the mitochondrion to its host’s genome. Scientists consider this mixing of genomes to be the irreversible step at which the two independent organisms become a single individual. [6]

Phylogenetic treeTrees of life – Phylogeny

The ability to analyse sequence in macromolecules (protein, DNA, RNA) provides evidence of descent, and permits us to work out genealogical trees covering the whole of life, since now there are data on every major group of living organisms. This project, begun in a tentative way in the 1960s, has become a search for the universal tree or the universal ancestor, a phrase of Carl Woese. The tree that results has some unusual features, especially in its roots. There are two domains of prokaryotes: bacteria and archaea, both of which contributed genetic material to the eukaryotes, mainly by means of symbiosis. Also, since bacteria can pass genetic material to other bacteria, their relationships look more like a web than a tree. Once eukaryotes were established, their sexual reproduction produced the traditional branching tree-like pattern, the only diagram Darwin published in On the Origin of Species. The last universal ancestor (LUA) would be a prokaryotic cell before the split between the bacteria and archaea. LUA is defined as most recent organism from which all organisms now living on Earth descend (some 3.5 to 3.8 billion years ago, in the Archean eon).

This technique may be used to clarify relationships within any group of related organisms. It is now a standard procedure, and examples are published regularly. April 2008 sees the publication of a tree covering all the animal phyla, derived from sequences from 150 genes in 77 taxa.

Early attempts to identify relationships between major groups were made in the 19th century by Ernst Haeckel, and by comparative anatomists such as Thomas Henry Huxley and E. Ray Lankester. Enthusiasm waned: it was often difficult to find evidence to adjudicate between different opinions. Perhaps for that reason, the evolutionary synthesis paid surprisingly little attention to this activity. It is certainly a lively field of research today. [7]

Paleontology and Geology

Paleontology is key to the study of evolution for two reasons.

  1. The discovery of fossils showing forms of animals that had never previously been seen began to cast serious doubt upon creationist theories.
  2. Fossils provide the only direct evidence of the history of evolution.

What is a fossil? Generally, we think of bones, shells, or teeth that are buried in rock, but fossils can also be outlines of leaves or footprints or trails. This second set of fossils, which are the outlines of items from the past rather than the items themselves, are called trace fossils. Fossils are formed when sediment covers some material, such as a piece of bone. Very gradually, the bone becomes impregnated with chemicals from the surrounding rock. Eventually all that remains is essentially a piece of rock in the shape of the original bone, or material.

Taken together, fossils can be used to construct a fossil record, which is a timeline of fossils reaching back through history. Several factors must be taken into account when constructing such a record. The strata of rock in which fossils are found give us clues about their relative ages. Similarly, new technological techniques such as radioactive carbon dating help determine the absolute ages of fossils. In addition to supplying a fossil’s relative age, rock strata can also give clues about the environments in which an animal or plant lived. The chemical make-up of these strata can tell us the balance of gases in ancient atmospheres. Major cataclysmic events such as eruptions and meteor strikes also leave there mark on the fossil record. [8]

The rock record provides an abundance of fossils, and by the early 1800s, geologists were using physical relationships among rocks as evidence to establish the basis for the geologic time scale. They understood that the fossil record shows major changes in life forms over time. In 1859, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species described these changes in detail and showed that they indicate that all life on Earth is related through descent with modification and showed that these changes can be explained by natural selection operating on random variations in organisms—the process we now know as biological evolution. Since then, we have continued to uncover details of life’s history, and biologists have elucidated the genetic and molecular basis for evolution. Evolution is not a static idea but a growing concept added to by scientific observation, testing, and debate. Scientific discoveries in these fields and related disciplines have progressively sharpened our understanding of evolution, which is now established as a well‐tested fact. Evolution is accepted by the scientific community because all available evidence supports the central conclusions of evolutionary science: that life on Earth has evolved and species share common ancestors and genomes.

The discovery of radioactivity in the twentieth century and its use for measuring the ages of rocks has made it possible to quantify Earth’s age and to estimate rates of many geologic processes. Many rocks over a billion years in age can now be dated with great precision. The ages of many rocks have been confirmed by repeated tests in multiple laboratories, often using different isotopic decay schemes. The results are consistent with the geological record, which includes the processes that uplift the land and cause the erosion and deposition of sediments. Geologists can now identify rocks that record hundreds of millions of years of sedimentation by the slow layer‐by‐layer accumulation of mud, the rhythmic rise and fall of tides on ancient continental margins, the growth of reefs, and the slow back‐and‐forth meandering of rivers in ancient valleys. Additionally, techniques that date more recent deposits have been repeatedly and accurately compared to known historical events.

Studies of Earth’s history, including the evolution of life on Earth, aid in the quest to understand how the Earth-life system functions and in the search for natural resources. The geologic record reveals how forms of life have responded to past environmental change, sometimes migrating, sometimes evolving, and sometimes going extinct. Understanding evolution has made possible many of the medical advances that save human lives and has furthered agricultural developments that feed the world. The short‐term adaptive evolution demonstrated by the ability of viruses to evolve and adapt to new vaccines, or simply to new environmental conditions, is readily comparable to the longer‐term evolution of more advanced species. Evolution has resulted in the presence of unique assemblages of life forms that change over time, the fossilized remains of which can be used to correlate rock units and thus allow geologists to accurately and efficiently locate valuable resources. [9]

In conclusion

This article could go on and on mentioning other various subfields which I may add later but this is enough to be getting on with to for now. Clearly over the past 150 years Darwin’s original theory has been added to and improved and corrected if need be and there is no shame in that. It is what science is all about. The self checking and improvement. Not just the peers in 1 field checking each other but the experts from various fields working together to prove each other right or wrong if that is the case.

Leave Darwin alone evolution deniers, you need to go after the multitude of scientific methods used to verify evolution now. Don’t be lazy relying in the pseudoscience in creationist sites. Honestly it will stand you no good. You need to study the science showing it to be true and attack that. Oh and good luck with that lol!!

Keep it rational folks, and always within reason!!

Alan the Atheist x x

 

Sources and citations:
http://www.nature.com/articles/srep00302 On Quantum Effects in a Theory of Biological Evolution
[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_biology
[2] http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/population-genetics/
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_evolutionary_synthesis
[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reproductive_isolation
[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symbiosis
[6] http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/_0_0/endosymbiosis_04
[7] http://www.wow.com/wiki/Modern_evolutionary_synthesis#Symbiotic_origin_of_eukaryotic_cell_structures
[8] http://www.sparknotes.com/biology/evolution/evidence/section1.rhtml
[9] http://www.geosociety.org/positions/position1.htm

 

 




Nothing

Much Ado About “Nothing” – A universe from an observed spontaneous occurrence!!

Something from perceived nothing

 

NothingThe debate on what “nothing” is rages on. Philosophers and physicists lock horns against each other, and then there is also in camp arguing between the physicists and of course between the philosophers. The experts cannot seem to agree.

So what is the problem? It is just empty space, right? Uh oh, then the space that the nothing is in is something. Damn and blast!! OK that needs a rethink.

So let’s say that Zero is nothing, let’s thrash this out mathematically.  1 – 1 = 0  we have something, we take that something away and we are left with nothing….. Why didn’t they just do that? Oh hang on I see why. If we flip this simplest of equations we have 0 = -1 + 1 which is 2 things from “nothing”…. I can see why this is tricky and we have not even approached the philosophical side of the debate. For now let’s stick to science. Let’s talk about some virtual particles.

Virtual Particles

Scientists for a long time took a vacuum to be empty space, full of nothing. As detection equipment became more advanced and sensitivity increased what they discovered is it is anything but empty space. The vacuum doesn’t hold a zero level quantum reading. Instead they saw fluctuations in the field. These fluctuations are lots of virtual particles spontaneously popping in and out of existence for brief moments of time. 1 positive and 1 negative fleeting into existence and then cancelling each other out. Magic and witchery I hear you cry, this cannot happen. Surely the Laws of Conservation of Energy tells us energy can not be created nor destroyed. WTF is going on? To answer this we must look to the quantum realm. Quantum field theory allows for tiny breaks in the laws of conservation for this to occur.

Non-intuitive logic

This too deserves some explanation. You have 2 kinds of logic: Classical logic and quantum logic. Classical logic is intuitive, it allows us to know if we you roll a ball down a hill into a valley with mountains of the same height the ball so long as nothing acts on it will roll up the side of the opposite mountain to a lesser height and not clear the top of the mountain. That is classical logic in effect. See an article by Kriss here using classical logic to show the abrahamic god cannot exist.

However if you release an electron in the same experiment and there is another valley with a greater slope adjacent to the original valley you are likely to find the electron in the next valley along. This is quantum logic. Not intuitive at all!! See a 1 min video here detailing this graphically.

So on the back of this, Quantum Field Theory allows for the spontaneous appearance of these virtual particles, and dont let the name fool you. The particles are very real and can be observed and measured. So much so that some have even been known to become photons and brief flashes of light are observed in a vacuum. This would usually be explained as something from nothing but as you know we do not see a Quantum 0 level in the vacuums.  Click here for a short article on the flash of light and here for a longer paper on the experiment.

Due to the weirdness of quantum mechanics, nothing transforms into something all the time. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle states that a system can never have precisely zero energy and since energy and mass are equivalent, pairs of particles can form spontaneously as long as they annihilate one another very quickly.

The less energy such a system has, the longer it can stick around. Thanks to gravity – the only force that always attracts – the net energy balance of the universe may be as close to zero as you can get. This makes its lifespan of almost 14 billion years plausible.

So as far as I can tell in physics there is no such thing as nothing. But where does this leave us? Where are you going with this? Are there cookies?

Cookies and the Universe

OK there are no cookies, but I was worried I may be losing you guys and gals, and who doesn’t love cookies? By cookies I mean virtual particles. We have shown experimentally in the links above that these little bad boys appear spontaneously. No observed cause. We know the theists love to say that us atheists say that a universe came from nothing. I say there is no nothing and why should the null position be nothing when we observe there is something. It is actually the theist which purports creation  ex nilihio. Ask any believer in the Abrahamic cults what materials were used by their deity, I dare ya?

If we imagine one of these pairs were to appear spontaneously, I guess in “hyperspace” as Michio Kaku calls it before our universe existed as we know they do and apply inflation theory to one tiny virtual particle we have an expanding universe, throw in some special relativity, Big Bang Theory, Baryogenesis, Big Bang Nucleosynthesis, Nebular Hypothesis, Stellar Nucleosynthesis, Supernova Nucleosynthesis, a healthy dose of Abiogenesis and a pinch of Biological Evolution and we can plausibly explain how our universe could form naturally and all the matter and organic life. All from nothing, or not nothing, in reality!! And remember this is all using the laws of physics. Don’t forget Einstein showed 2 points where the laws of physics appear to break down, beyond the event horizon of a black hole and pre-expansion. Link to an article by Professor Mir Faisal on just this topic

So after all this logic and reason(coz we love a bit of reason here), the laws of physics most likely didn’t apply before expansion so realistically anything goes. Anything could happen. We need not worry about the laws of conservation so to assume a universe could not come from an actual nothing is unfounded. No gods required!!

A theist may argue their god existed always, I dont know if the universe always existed but if it did in some form then if we apply Ockham’s philosophical razor that we should be shaving off the deity from the 2 arguments and going with if anything existed always then it is the thing which we can observe to actually exist.

no-nothing

So in conclusion my heathen friends

  • We do not observe there to be nothing, close but no cigar.
  • We can show how a universe could come from a spontaneous event, the simple spontaneous appearance of a pair virtual particles.
  • If a deity could exist always then so to could a universe in some form and the universe is really much more likely if we consider the much less complicated theory (I use that word lightly in the case of creation myths)
  • No gods required – but we do need cookies so please send cookies to AIR HQ

That’s all I got for this one. Take it any way you can get it my friends!!