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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Please don’t mistake this as anything other than an examination of the gay gene and by far this is not the rejection of the ontological worth any individual places on their inner world that includes the belief that they were born gay. If anyone does truly believe that they were born gay then of course this holds immense value to them by which no method should it ever be undermined. This follows on from a conversation that I had with someone who does believe that. Whilst they were citing functional magnetic resonance imaging and genetics, the strange notion came across that there were simply two choices. The first is that people are born gay and the other that through learning & being brought up in a certain fashion or perhaps by some bad experience with the opposite sex, that they have chosen their sexuality. This in itself is a fallacy, a product of thinking more about reductionism than complexity. There is much more to understanding sexuality than these two opposing perspectives. While I cannot reproduce the complexity of this issue, maybe the suggestion of the combination of both nature and nurture is valid. Still that is not my point, I don’t know where sexuality really comes from but here I reject the notion of being born gay on two grounds.

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MMR image from retiredrambler.typepad.com The MMR vaccine, an all-round method for protecting children against measles, mumps and rubella, was first used right at the end of the 1960’s it was clear to see it was an ever effective method of disease control. This vaccine was the result of scientific methods and the empowerment of people to see something that required effort & attention in so dealing with it; this has saved around an estimated 1.8 million people. As well as stopping these diseases from causing death it also had the effect of removing some of the other common results of the illness such as mental defects. So when the level of measles starts to rise and the first child died from it in 2006 in the UK after 14 years of no measles related deaths, we have to really start to understand why. Most of the answer was due to Dr Andrew Wakefield who was guilty of bad science in his report suggesting that there was a link between MMR and autism. Is it right for me to blame just one person for the increasing measles cases or do we all need to bare some of the responsibility? Wakefield’s report argued that there was an inherent risk from the MMR vaccine and suggested that single vaccines would reduce the risk to the child. The conclusions were based on the observation of 12 children all of who were determined to have shown symptoms of autism type behaviour 8 of which were reported within two weeks of the MMR vaccination. This is bad science in two main ways; the first is no control group which is the base of children that have received the vaccine without showing any symptoms of autism without this group it is impossible to determine whether the MMR vaccine did cause autism. The second problem is that if you are only dealing with 12 children all of which are showing symptoms, of course this will alter anyone’s perception of what is going on, since we tend to see patterns naturally even if they are not there.

The Man – the threat was simply based on a theory, he suggested that the combined vaccine overloaded the immune system of the child which in turn caused a bowel disorder and later a form of autism. Wakefield views were dismissed time and time again by experts in the field, as he never proved clear evidence to link the vaccine to autism, even though there was an increase in the reported levels of autism. In most studies cited by Wakefield there were children who had autism which also received MMR although a smaller number had also received the single vaccines. Although it could be suggested that the measles vaccine could trigger the onset of autism this would also indicate the single vaccine could also possibly be a trigger. Wakefield used bad science since he only ever looked at small numbers which violates the conditions of the scientific method of reliability and validation. Wakefield faced professional misconduct charges for performing unnecessary procedures on children and he was also questioned about his position in research in this area and his role as an expert in MMR litigation. The parents of the 12 children used by Wakefield in his initial investigation were seeking to sue the producers of the vaccine. The GMC described him as dishonest and brought a number of charges of wrongful conduct.

The Media – the media ran with the story and like any good business they used it to sell the media they were producing. They helped to present a confusing picture for parents by introducing doctors that backed the withdrawal of the MMR vaccine without ever considering the level to which they should be placed in context. In a sense those doctors who back each side were given equal weight and offered a personal dilemma that parents had to face, despite the fact the official position as always been there is no link between the vaccine and autism. The focus was on autism and not the potential harmful disease that the vaccine would protect against. The Parents – often people react more to the thing which is less likely to happen but offers more worrying and unknown consequences. The threat of something that is unknown is much more powerful as a fear than that to which we think that we know more about. As the result of the fear of MMR fewer children were protected from the known diseases, the disease increased and children suffered as a result. Of course, the single jabs were always available still these left gaps between when the first vaccine was given and the last one, this was sometimes the only opportunity required for illness. Countries like the UK also refused to pay for the single vaccinations since there was no evidence MMR was linked to autism and the extra cost could not be justified within a limited budget. This left many children without any protection!

The truth – A couple of months after Wakefield suggested a bowel disorder could cause autism a 14 year long study found that around 0.001% of the children given the MMR vaccine suffered any bowel problems, all of which never showed any signs of autism. Even if we take that number, 0.001% as having the possibility of developing autism and let’s assume that they do, this is still less likely than the other two major results of measles. There is a 0.033% chance the measles will result in mental retardation and there is a 0.01% chance that someone will die from measles (this is an estimate; this is reduced to a degree with modern medications although those children unprotected from measles often end up in hospital). There is a higher chance of dying from measles than from the assumption that every bowel disorder will cause autism. Reported cases of autism numbers are on the increase this might be due to many factors, only a small percentage of the cases have strong genetic links. In a Japanese city were the vaccine was withdrawn the numbers of reported autism cases still showed an increase. If the MMR vaccine was to blame then the trend should have started to go down rather than up, as it did. There is a real issue of genetic predispositions and environmental factors which is still unclear, to say that is more acceptable than spreading fear and concern for something that might not be the real cause, MMR has shown to not be the real cause. The truth is the more parents that don’t have their children vaccinated then it puts everyone else at risk, only one person needs to bring the disease into a community to infect all the unvaccinated children. While medical resources are used to treat the outbreak it is not being spent on other things, so if there is a known cure being that of the MMR vaccine can anyone be justified at putting other people at risk by diverting money away from treating other conditions? There is perhaps a more worrying end to all of this, while antibiotics are losing the battle with disease why should we risk using them to treat diseases like measles when that could result in them being less effective for other illnesses that we currently have no proactive defence for. It is clear that the benefits of the MMR vaccine outweigh the risk!

This is a prime example of risk taking behaviour by large parts of our own societies, the risk from measles, mumps and rubella has always been greater than that of autism. So why did we act in such a strange way? This is not just about awareness of the issues that are at play it is about how we perceive information, it was the fault of Wakefield, even though he acted against what doctors are meant to uphold, he was perhaps stupid and dishonest. It was not the fault of the media after all they represent things in such a way that allows them to get people’s attention. It has to do with us and how we use critical thinking in order to understand things. It might be argued that we cannot all understand such medical terms and its language; we can use our brains and go find the information though. We could go and look at logical fallacies for ourselves. At the heart of it, it is about how we come to understand risk we see ourselves in and for the most part inaction appears like the most sensible course of action, still this is not! If you can understand why a loving and caring parent would make such an error in judgment then perhaps you can also see the reflection when it comes to Reiki or homeopathic medicine, or even maybe the relationship we might have with horoscopes. Things might appear to hold less risk than they actually do while others are more dangerous than they are given credit for.

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There is an old Irish saying, religion is the superstition of fools and I cannot help but think that should be religion is the religion of fools! I will give religion one point though, not that I’m actually keeping a record of points awarded or anything, at least for the most part it is perhaps a clearer distinction to where certain thoughts or behaviour come from, this is certainly not as clear when you consider luck for example. That is to say if you hate gay people then it comes completely justifiable once the understanding of a religious belief becomes apparent, even though such a position is easy rejected under the broad label of a modern society. If you believe some things are lucky and others are not, then it’s a little more difficult to see the thought process that has gone on in order for that to be justifiable to anyone especially to those that believe it. I think that I will start off with Superstitions since under my own broad definition this includes Luck, horoscopes, homeopathic medicine, anyone that argues they can speak to the dead, faith healers, Reiki, card reading and anything that can come up along those lines. I want to argue that these things have never been proven to work, at all, from what I hear people argue it works as there is a kind of feeling that it does. Rather than simply putting my focus in to that, I want to answer the question of what harm these things can do and the investment which is placed within these superstitions. In general I am not celebrating despair, rather extreme levels of hope which can be achieved by removing these things from people’s minds. If anyone points the finger at me saying that I am trying to remove their hope I wish to comment that this is not the case, there are real benefits to abandonment and also real empowerment to be taken back from both superstitions & religion.
www.blacksunjournal.com

I like this analogy; if you go and get health care treatment in America and increasingly in Western European countries as well, once your condition is found out the burden of deciding on treatment is pushed back to the person who is ill, this is not the issue of consent which should always happen unless it is agree that you no longer can give it, it is a list of treatments that you can pick. This comes from the fear that doctors or hospitals might be sued if they get things wrong and you suffer in this event. This might sound really good, still consider who is more likely to make mistakes a doctor with at least 7 years of training who is at heart a professional or a sick person who knows next to nothing about medicine? It might seem an empowering notion to go through after all what is bad about choice, nothing and it does give the ill person a sense that they are in control of the situation. Even so you can see why this is illogical and perhaps wrong; a doctor who might make a mistake is always in a better position to make decisions than a sick person who is more than likely completely unaware of what is involved in the medical treatments offered. It is these supernatural things that create their own inbuilt despair as the same thing is happening, things like Reiki, faith healers and homeopathy give people who are ill or suffering the feeling of control over their own lives, still do we ever consider the possibility that an ill person is no good at deciding what one of these treatments will be best for them? Who is to say that Reiki will work and faith healing will not. This might seem like an overlaboured point to make but it is not as empowerment and control is so important to us. This leads me to the next objection; the level of hope that is given to people by these superstitious treatments often falls short of expectation, so they create despair often. Richard Dawkins puts this best by saying that people in India are choosing scientific medical treatment over useless superstitious treatments in overwhelming numbers, mean while in the west we are stuck in the reverse!

There is no evidence to suggest luck, horoscopes, homeopathy, Reiki or the other things ever work or are real reflections of the world. If these things are not based on truth, then it is perfectly possible to reduce them down to personal feelings and ‘I thinks’, this is a move towards the metaphysical. There is no evidence to suggest that someone’s metaphysical feelings are real, you might have really strong personal feelings that black people should not share the same space as you, that is just racist and if we end up deciding what is true based on our personal feelings then to me that is just a judgement call and ultimately dangerous to us all. The human brain is an amazing inability to decide what is true or not. Let’s take the case of 9/11 where almost 3000 Americans died, this is sad and deserves our action in every way. Only three days later, exactly to the minute after these attacks 3,300 Americans had died as a direct result of cigarettes, a further 1,100 would die every single day for the rest of the year (Chris Jordan). Since these terrorist attacks the American budget for health care has been reduced in real terms and homeland security has been increased by a significant amount, even though if a small percent of the homeland security budget was direct at healthcare prevention it could save more people. Of course we must stop terrorists, I am not suggesting we don’t, still is an example of how sometimes we can worry more about the things that are not really all that much of a threat to us. We think that smoking cigarettes is a choice, it might be in the start but often turns out to be an addiction, still we assume that it is controllable thus making it a safe known rather than perhaps an unsafe unknown. We have an error in our understanding when it comes to threats to safety of ourselves and the people we care about. In order to remove judgement from within our personal feelings we must check science and in order to remove errors in our understanding, even at national level, we must come to understand what logic is showing us – these create true things unlike personal feelings!

I use the word investment when we are talking about superstitions; this describes the situation the best since I don’t think that you walk into these superstitions not giving up things, this could be time, energy, money or your mental ability to cope in a rational way. Please keep in mind the idea of truth when I talk about these things here. When I talk about luck, I assume that most people do things that they hope will result in good things happening to them still when they don’t do these things it can often result in changes in thoughts, behaviour and a great deal of anxiety. The loss we make is great, we change our thoughts with the end result being irrational thinking, we change our behaviour as a result making us do things that are not justifiable and if we put our hope into something that is not true how can it be anything other than despair. Let’s go to Reiki for example, the process where someone puts their hands over your body and it heals you magically, people put time and often money, our hopes and often ill people go there in order to receive treatment. I think it is dishonest to say that you can treat someone when there is no evidence that you can, it scares me that someone can do Reiki who could possibly not be going through proven treatment or spending the time & money into going for a nice massage that would make their life better without the false hope. Of course both luck and Reiki can provide us with something but at what cost to ourselves. All these things chip away at the thing we call science and that will harm everyone in the end, you move the mind set away from the logic and towards the irrational. If you think that computers, vaccines, antibiotics, Cognitive behavioural treatments, MIR scans, X-ray scanners either at airports that keep you safe or at hospitals, possible fusion energy in the future, gene therapy, disease, chemical & infection control and much more are not only useful but saving people’s lives every single day, then how can you reject what all these things that are based on rational and reasoned thinking. To accept superstitious rubbish is the full face rejection of science, there is one proven thing that has improved & saved the lives of millions of people – science. There is nothing that as caused more suffering and death than superstition, and this brings me to the biggest one of all time, Religion!

www.issr.org.ukReligion is not based on the hope that there is a supernatural being rather extreme fear that there is not, with the wish that belief is not wasted. Religious people see the same evidence that God is not real as the rest of us; still it suits their needs to promote the irrational idea, it is indeed a real problem and why should anyone settle for this? Either you make the decision to give your life, mind or often death over to someone else or you do not. The debate should never be about morality or the evidence that a certain religion is either right or wrong, the evidence is clear for all to see. Focus should be on the implications of belief, we should not be scared into religion since it is our only hope in explaining things, I even reject this idea, it ends up explaining very little. If the result of belief is anything negative then it must answer for this, many people claim to be good Christians unless you are homophobic, racist and don’t agree with the idea of women’s rights then you are not a good Christian at all, this is God’s word and you cannot pick what you want from the bible. Religion can make people do the upmost stupid things, there justifications comes from faith even though morality tells us that these things are wrong and I am not talking about extremists that blow themselves up, I am talking about the everyday believers here. Bringing up your child in just one religion is child abuse, you have no evidence that you are picking the right religion so how can you justify placing rules & guide lines for a child without knowing whether it is right or not! Mutilation of children’s genitals is wrong no matter how many metaphysical feelings you, as a parent, might have. I object to religion on so many grounds, you can read some of it on my blog or go look on the internet for yourself. Now let us turn to science.

A lot of crap science is out there and this is not the result of science at all, rather people claiming that something is science when it is not. So I will give you a little rule to remember; if you come across something that is claiming to be science in order for you to check whether it is or not, ask yourself under what conditions could this be completely wrong! If you can’t work out how it could be wrong then it is not science, for example a new drug that helps people with depression this can be proven false if it is found not to work correctly. The creationist’s argument that dinosaurs were on Noah’s Ark umm… dinosaurs lived before humans and around 64 million years ago? Ok you know that or you think the earth is only 4000 years old. I think you get the picture there is no condition in the creationists approach that allows me to say that would be false thus it is not science. If you go up to anyone that claims to be a true scientist and ask them the most important factors are the fact it can be wrong is the most significant, followed by peer review, reason and reliability of both method & result. You might not understand it at all but if you wanted to then you could go out and repeat the experiments of science. The method is always published within the peer review in order so others are able to find the same findings. Other than that it is a rational & reasoned response, not always but the things that go to create general laws or known facts are checked and the feedback loop checks them well so you can take from it that they are true things. To me the wonders of science far surpass that of anything else, the beauty of the surface of Mars or viewing atoms through powerful electron microscopes, how can anything else challenge these things? The hope that science brings is also amazing, around the time of the Enlightenment was a period were humans took control of the world they found themselves in, no one should ever want to lose that power, it is so important to us. I have gone on about how useful it is, I will end with this; it is thanks to science that I am still alive and that most of us are, we don’t owe science anything but we do owe the method of thinking that allow humans to think, imagine and create the things that saved so many people and that will save many more in the future. You should feel optimistic about the future; with science and its reasoned thinking we can do almost anything we can dream.

I have written about science and religion so far, I hope to write more about the things I consider as Superstitions soon. I decided to write this post now since I felt ready and confident about these issues. I have really enjoyed the journey that has being going on with me in the last six months, I hope it will continue. It is a little sad though that my posts offering insults about religion seem to get more views than anything else, so if you are reading this and have not done so already, please go read a science post. Thank you for reading my blog!

A little more on this matter….


Michael Shermer – Why we should think before we believe things. I like this man, he also thinks that intelligent design is the end of the conversation and science is an attitude rather than anything else. He discusses UFO and other things along that nature. Humans tend to see patterns and use their cognitive abilities to make sense of unclear data, this does not, as he suggests, be the end of investigation or be used as evidence. Our brains change the things we perceive into a workable pattern and this is what is happening, the more difficult it is to hear or see something clearly the more likely it is we will start to see with our brains and not our eyes.

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When you first enter the discussion of the concepts of induction and deduction there is a confusing analogy that has to do with swans, I will try my best to steer away from this since it never really makes it clear at all. Still this is my case to why Ghost Hunters the TV show, something which claims to promote the idea of scientific investigation, never uses the same model as science at all. It thus can be taken that ghost hunters should never be given the weight of objective knowledge which science hopes to produce. You might have never watch the show, in which case you can apply this to many other areas, since the idea is what constitutes science and what does not, you can see how other things that claim to be scientifically valid might not be. Ghost hunters, you might be saying, why did I pick this? Well, you might not know the show still you know the notion of ghosts, you understand more than you think. You know science can’t prove it, you know they are scary, and you most likely know what the movie white noise is about, or any other movie where ghosts appear or move things. With knowing all these things I can use it to highlight how science is different, it is perhaps one of the most stable concepts I could use! Science is seen as providing a useful set of knowledge that is not only helpful it also relates closely with the true reflection of how things are. So for something or someone to claim that something is scientific they are saying that it is true and valuable, these are big claims to make. It also makes real scientific findings less useful since making such claims that don’t turn out to be true chips away at the real objective knowledge that has been created. I won’t be arguing about the evidence since at a certain level it does not really make a difference on this topic.

scifipedia.scifi.com

Science is not just induction, a process of logic, it means much more than that and it includes a series of reasoned thinking and methods. From this reasoned process, facts are produced such as under specific condition an event is likely to happen, under the label of reliability the event must happen again and again within these conditions before it then can be taken to be fact. This is one of the reasons why the method of experiments are published with the results and conclusions, so you can see this reasoned process and make judgements to how reasoned it actually is. Still the problem is how to we get from these facts and make them useful, this process is called induction. From the facts of reliable experiments we can apply them into the useful, valid and well known benefits of science which I am sure you are aware of! Let’s go to ghost hunters and deduction before we carry on. In ghost hunters they try to prove that ghost exist and are real, they used technology in an attempt to capture ‘ghosts’ and then they use this as evidence. The type of evidence they use which I like the most is EVPs, electronic voice phenomenon, whereby they place a voice recorder down either letting it run or asking questions where the answers are recorded, not heard out loud. Once these responses are heard via playing back the voice recorder it is taken that the place they are investigating is haunted or has paranormal events going on. Let’s take the assumption of the leap between voices heard and ghosts/paranormal events as a true and reasonable jump to make. This leads us all to the statement that a positive EVP event n means a result ghost/paranormal n, where n can be any number of experiences. This is an incorrect logical statement to make, since an EVP event does not necessarily ever mean that there are ghosts around answering or talking. EVPs by themselves can never prove anything, they might be the result of interference by radio signals and if EVPs are dismissed on these bases then this is a value judgment based on other things. You can’t get from EVP event n to statement to make a general statement that EVP must denote ghosts.

The debunking thing is also a really big issue on Ghost Hunters, where if people tell the team about events they think are the result of ghost the team see if anything else could have caused them. This was the case when the team recorded a door opening and closing of its own will, they went back to the door to see if a breeze could have caused it or perhaps the level of humidity expanded the wood. In the true fashion of Sherlock Holmes this is deduction, since we can deduct from the door event that if a known set of factors are not present & causing the door to open and close by itself, then we must deduce that ghosts are responsible for this. This does however, have some serious faults even though it can seem like a reasonable step of logic, the main fault is that it makes the assumption that the ghost hunting team know all possible reasons behind non-ghost door opening and closing. Let me make that a little clearer using the example of Bertrand Russell; if a turkey is fed everyday at 9am for weeks on end the turkey might deduce that ‘I get fed everyday at 9am’, that is if turkeys could speak and deduce! This is a wrong deduction since a couple of days before Christmas the turkey was killed and then later eaten. My argument is that both Ghost Hunters and the turkey were/are wrong since they might be missing one piece of information that later proves false the deduction, this weakens the whole argument that is presented by ghost hunters. The problem is not with deduction as a method of logic; it is a problem with the method to which deduction is applied to known bodies of knowledge. The mode of deduction is well known, so now let’s move to the idea of induction, something which is what science uses as its main source of applying known facts to the general.

www.biografiasyvidas.com - Aristoteles father of LogicInduction in science is the reverse of deduction, rather than starting with what we know, what happens is that we learn from a series of events happening within a certain set of conditions and it goes towards the top level of knowledge. Of course, it is not that simple and there are three conditions to which must be applied in order for particular events to achieve status at the top level of knowledge or create a general theory. The first is that the number of events occurring within the condition must be extensive, the second that this event must occur within a slightly different set of conditions (to test the boundaries) and last of all no observation must produce a different event. Let me put this into a context, if I wanted to know what would make people punch me or attack me physically in some manner not really depending on who that person is, I would first have to have some inspiration about the topic. I might go read some books that are roughly relevant to the topic, from this I would get a general idea to how I would go about experimenting and finding the information I need in order to create a general law. Perhaps this information would be something like I must attack first and then just stand in front of that person. What I need to do is then go around doing this and even if it works 100% of the time, this is still not enough. I need other people to do the same thing and many times, once all the results are in & we can see that it works 100% of the time we can create the general law, as long as there any event where my theory is not falsified and is untrue in a set of conditions. If it is, then I must adapt or drop my theory, still if it holds true then we can thank induction for this. Of course, this is not true I just made it up. Still what happens once we get the general laws, we can then do something clever and use deduction in order to make them useful.

You might at this moment think that both Ghost Hunters and science results from the same form of deduction in the end, even if the information is form another way should this really be considered to be so different? The answer is yes, even though science uses deduction in the end to get from the general laws to predicting particular events, the information that has been created is so different it changes the nature of deduction. Scientific induction creates the knowledge in such a way, very unlike the deduction of ghost hunters, that things can be proven to be wrong, this creates accountability within the method of using deduction from scientific induction. I will illustrate this; when the door opened and closed in ghost hunters the type of deduction used meant that once all known things are removed from the situation then the ending result means it is ghost activity. There are no balances or checks involved within this and it can mean that the ending conclusion has no real meaning or truth behind it; this means it is easy to disagree on the grounds of bad logic. Let’s now turn to science and the deductive statement that aspirin can remove a headache, this came from a body of inductive knowledge, it was independently checked and if an event was found to be in violation of the particular body of knowledge that it came from then this will be related back to that knowledge changing it in the process. The body of knowledge that the ghost hunters use is common experience, the things that they know from what has happened to them, each other and the things that they can think of. Ghost Hunters might claim that they are doing their investigations from a scientific approach; still this idea has to be rejected.

In the Ghost Hunting episode ‘child Haunting & Sutcliff House’ one of the main men said that there are degrees of being scientific, this is not the case. Either something follows the rules of science so it should be considered scientific or it does not, there are no degrees about it. There is something else about scientific induction which is also ignored, the idea that predictions must be present in order to validate the conclusions that are made. If these predictions are made and then proven false this should create feedback, if this feedback is denied then it should never be considered as science. The only conclusion I make about the ghost hunters team is they are professional, they are allowed to present themselves as so, although when it comes to scientific this comes with responsibility. This claim is unfounded and they should never make it! Having said that science is not perfect, I am referring to real science now, if you have ever read about falsificationism then you are well aware of these problems. There are also arguments against the idea of induction, since they are more complex I won’t really go into them here, although be aware they are there.

www.akademika.noA little more on this matter…

If you are interested in this area then I suggest a great book called “what is this thing called science?” (ISBN 0-335-20109-1) which covers all the issues I’ve discussed here and a lot more, so if you ever wanted to actually know what science is then this is the book for you.

 

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Humans by our very nature really don’t understand what random chance means, still let me provide an introduction to the topic. What set of numbers are more likely to win the lottery you can pick either 7 13 17 23 32 41 or 1 2 3 4 5 6? Ok you might try to catch me out here, but be honest the first set of numbers, at least to most people, would be considered to more likely be the winning lottery numbers even though both sets have an equal chance of winning. They are statistically equal in their likeliness although most people would pick the first set as a less risky and more likely to win than the second set of numbers. I was introduced to randomness by a lecturer who got the whole room to put 20 random dots on a blank piece of paper, being of course a lecturer in psychology the results were rather predictable, either the dots where all in one corner of the paper or pretty much equally spaced throughout the page. No one decided that randomness would result in all 20 dots being in the same position or that they could be clusters. In all humans have a hard time understanding what random really means, this is much like evolution in many ways.

evolution vs creationI recently got hold of a magazine named “Creation or Evolution” produced by the United Church of God, which has members across the world [EV/0511/1.1], although there are a lot of things which I object too I will pick the one I am most confused by. Overall the whole thing directs you to either the acceptance of either creation or the blind chance of lucky accidents which is cheerfully named ‘evolution’. I‘m sure I will talk about some of the other issues that came to me while reading this magazine at another time, still statements like Blind chance and this, which I will quote confused me greatly: “..upon thousands of lucky chance mutations happened coincidentally so that the lens [and the eye could work]..” Now I understand that it has been argued that the eye could have only come to existence if the whole thing came about at the same time, this is not the issue that I want to focus on really and since many scientists have already discussed this I will settle with talking about blind chance of evolution and natural selection. Natural selection has never been the same as blind chance. Chance is the idea that you gain something positive from random events or possible events that could occur; it is in effect the end result of randomness. Blind is also a puzzling word in this sense it is the unguided and unthought-of process that we happen to follow, there are no rules and whatever happens just happens. So according to the United Church of God evolution is the result of an unguided random process that just happened to produce the living things that we can see today, is that a true reflection of evolution?

Well the answer is a little no here – around half of all pregnancies in humans result in the natural abortion of the embryo or fetus which is the consequence of abnormalities, where maladaptive combinations or growth results in it simply not working. Extra or missing genetic material can also lead to natural abortion. The human body and indeed most other living things will not bare or produce young if there is not a strict following of the rules which allow for the normal growth of the embryo or fetus. Only smaller variations will result in successful birth of young, if there is something really wrong with the genetics then it will never end in successful reproduction. In this way the occurred changes must be more gradual and build up over time. Darwin never really discussed this quite like that, still this is not an unguided process, and the laws of nature provide the rules in which adaption must take place. This also means that randomness is excluded since abnormalities of genetic combination have to take place within this process. The conclusion here is that natural selection is not an unguided or random process.

Well the answer is a big no here – there is one big condition that exists within the theory of evolution, that is environment is the most important factor in the development of species, living things must be able to live and survive in the environment that they are born into otherwise they will not bare young and the species will die. Darwin called this process adaptive, this implies that there is some intelligence to the change which there is not; its more like the environment is changing & developing and the resulting effect are successful changes within a line of ancestors resulting in successful reproduction. This is how we got to the level of many species on earth; it’s the changing environment which includes things like the temperature, oxygen level and also the level of food available. The slow change is the creator of species and anything that counteracts successful living in a particular the environments means the likelihood of a successful survival is diminished. Since the environment governs natural selection, natural selection is therefore, not a random and unguided process. It has specific rules.

Let’s now turn to the building up process, I said before I don’t really want to discuss the eye so I will just give you an outline to how such things as eyes or anything else can build up over time. This from Richard Dawkins book the blind watchmaker, he provides an interesting and powerful analogy; let us take the case of a monkey through random chance being able to type the sentence ‘Methinks it is like a Weasel’, the odds of the monkey being able to do that successfully are so unlikely I can’t even count the zeros. Needless to say it is very unlikely to happen within 100 years of non-stop monkey typing. This is effectively what the United Church of God is suggesting and thus the argument of natural selection having odds for success which is far past me being able to write all the zeros down in my life time. Now let’s use the true non-random and guided process of evolution to suggest that every time the monkey gets a letter right, it works and therefore, it stays. So the first letter of ‘Methinks it is like a Weasel’ is M – since it’s a successful letter, it works in the sentence and the M stays; this is a 1in27 chance of the monkey hitting the M key (26 letters and the space bar). At some point the monkey will hit the second letter E since this is again successful it will also stay, the odds of that happening is 1in27 by 1in27. Each time the monkey gets a letter right it stays and the odds & necessary time for the whole sentence to be completed is reduced significantly, rather than millions of years perhaps a few weeks of non-stop monkey typing. This is how natural selection works by each successful change adding up over time to create an overall successful difference, each change being governed by rules of success.

www.extremefunnyhumor.com

So when creationists argue that Coelacanth fish which was found recently although thought to be extinct 70 million years ago thus proving evolution is therefore wrong, we can simply argue that the main condition of evolution, being that of environmental change being the driving force, was not present for these populations of fish. Crocodiles are thought to be around 200 million years old overlapping with the dinosaurs that became extinct 65 million years ago. Why did the Coelacanth and Crocodiles survive all this time? The answer is once again this was not random chance. Both are suited for their environments, they are so well adapted that they have not changed, any change would be of negative effect and such variations are less suited so they have pretty much stayed the same. Random chance plays very little in the particulars of evolution and natural selection, so the conclusion that random or blind chance has anything to do with it is always a wrong assumption. We must reject this notion of blind chance!

A little more on this matter…

I’ve found a blog post that deals with some of the other issues that tends to pop up in regards to evolution, in particular the writer addressed some of the common anti-evolution ideas that are around. I like the idea that the blogger suggests that most creationists that become critics of evolution have never actually studied biology in any form. Great blog post read it here:

http://naontiotami.wordpress.com/2008/05/17/revolution-against-evolution-the-limits-of-microevolution/

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www.issr.org.uk/ Science Vs ReligionThis kind of also answers the question about why I write this blog. I think that it is a sensible question to ask and the reason is that I first started this blog was when I came across the work of Richard Dawkins, I agreed with what he said. That is not why I still continue, the reason is that for a lot of the time I think that science is misunderstood and for that matter perhaps logic too! Here was me thinking that some sort of Religion could be in place without it bothering the rest of us, Dawkins introduced the idea that ‘truth’ with religion being very much outside in the dark. Science has had to deal with truth and being a postgraduate currently studying science, I have had to deal with truth as well. Science is not a stable thing, it’s messy and a lot of the time it is acknowledged that science can only explain certain things under certain conditions. Science and Religion both create their own concept of what is true in the world.

The temptation might be here for you to think that both science and religion offer different versions or accounts of the same things, you’d be right in part of course. Still there is a big difference, science has or never could directly challenge religion, at least not in its true form, as the whole point of science is not to create a version of reality rather to simply show it as it is. Religion does create a reality, whether it is a kind God who is listening to your wishes or informing you what would be the “Christian” thing. Science exists to help you decide what you could do; Religion exists to tell you what you should. The most fundamental difference I have found is that as an individual you can pile into Science, you can easily go out to test its reasoning as well as add to body of knowledge it creates, it builds up over time and with validation the truth moves. In Religion people tend to pile out of it, they go to a place to hear and see things and then they take that knowledge away which is said to be true. Science offers the tools of investigation whereas religion simply offers a version of the knowledge, you might argue here that science also offers a version of knowledge and you would be correct. The point is that it never stops there and the body of knowledge is moving and responsive, the real difference is the process of reason rather than the presentation of information. If you stand in science, you’d see a useful set of tools and knowledge to which is more often than not will benefits people’s lives. It has never ending questions to which you might never get the answers too or you might get one question answered to only have the process produce a whole new set of questions. If you stand in religion and ask the question ‘Why?’ it’s because of God and that ends the conversation.

Please see my earlier post titled “Why does science still grow when it can be so wrong? Why did science happen and take hold in Europe?” it explains in more detail some of the issues that I have discussed here. Both Comte and Durkheim authored in their own ways three types of understandings or worlds, the first was that of Custom & habit. The second being that of the God ultimate and the last being that of logic & reason. Rather than being able for an individual to exist in two or more of these worlds, they instead moved from one to the other and this was the result of human progress. In this poor example, people used to bury their loved ones in a certain manner and this built up in each generation to include certain rituals. Even me starting at burying is one jump too soon, it could be once when people died they were left on the ground but insects and animals used to eat the bodies so someone thought that putting them in the ground would stop those insects and animals. So this was adopted and happened in the next generation, this is a building up process and this is what happened in the first world. In the second world, the first was removed because now whole societies would bury their dead in the same way and this include, almost at a national level, a set of rituals prescribed for each event plus a new understanding of why we do it this way, God. You could not accept the irrational & illogical version of the second world, say believing in God, and then also buy into the rational and logical third world. They are incompatible to each other at a fundamental level; the third world demands the removal of the second.

I could say that types of religious scientists lived in an earlier time where science had not really developed but that is not really true. Science is there, according to Comte and others, to get at the natural laws which govern the world which we live in. Steven Nadler describes God as nature, everything that happens in nature also happens because of God if you believe in God that is. I hope that confused you a little because its then a true reflection of what actually happens. I would like to bring up David Sloan Wilson here now, as his idea of the practical and factual realism helped me understand why scientists can be religious. In factual realism we deal with truths as far as we can understand them, this is a true reflection of what actually is going on and with any hope these understandings are removed from agenda. Science attempts to deal with factual realism and how do we know this? Well, if you ask yourself and others what happens after someone dies you would get a range of different answers some from faith and others from personal feelings. From this we can see there is no fact or truth from these statements since some could be right others of them could be wrong, you have no way of knowing which one is actually the right answer. When was the last time an X-ray suffered from this problem? Well never unless the machine was broken to which it could be fixed in accordance with the knowledge of how it works. So factual realism is very important and so far most of what I have talked about is based on this notion of science.

Practical realism is a lot more interesting, it states that knowledge that we have, even if not based on fact, works because it allows us to get on with our everyday lives. If we think that doing something which in turns makes us lucky and benefits us by having a successful day then all I can say is that it exists & is worthy of our attention, it’s not based on fact still it allows us to take control of seemingly random events. It does provide benefits including filling in some of the gaps in how we understand the world. In this way scientist can defer to practical realism in order to make sense or fulfil a need. This has been seen to be true in terms of science, in all its forms, when science interlaces with those still using in part their practical realism. So even though religion is outside what is required for belief in science, it still can be present at times. It is particularly easy for scientists not involved in areas that would question Religion, such as a chemist it seems more likely they would have a religious perspective rather than a biologist with connections with evolution. Although this is not always true! One thing I have noticed is that scientists that argue from a religious stand point offer bad science in re-turn. If we go back to how societies bury their dead if all you believed in was science, science does not really offer any help or comfort and religion seems to score one in this department. The structure of religious ritual is universal in a lot of sets or groups of people and this structure appears to be useful. It is in these great unknowns where science is not the light; religion can be the candle even though we never really know if it was the right thing to do.

A little more on this matter…

TIME magazine

Intelligent design has been reject as a pseudoscience, still the debate between Collins and Dawkins is very interesting presented in this TIME article, both come as scientists but only Collins has belief in God. There are many from the scientific corner who are outraged to the insult upon rationality when arguments are presented by intelligent design (ID). Dawkins suggests that the most powerful building block of ID is in fact within the name, design, once we can understand the life on earth was not designed then we remove the whole concept of God from the table. Collins on the other hand offers the idea that Genesis cannot be subjected to the tools of science and furthermore, we simply cannot understand Genesis at all.

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1555132,00.html

The answer to the question is rather a muddy perhaps not!

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EarthI was listening to a recently filmed debate and the idea came across that the earth was designed; this was presented by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. These are the things he mentions, which I have heard before, I would like to summarize them; if the earth were a little closer or further away, then the earth would freeze or boil. If the earth was not tilted then massive ice mountains would build up, drawing the water away from large parts of the world creating deserts. If the earth did not rotate at the 1000mph, rather at a slower 100mph then the days would burn everything alive and the night would freeze the same life. If the moon was a little closer then the tides would flood all the land. If the oceans where deeper it would absorb all the carbon dioxide making plant life impossible. If the atmosphere was a little thinner then meteors would fall to earth and cause vast devastation and if water did not expand when it freezes the fish in the seas would die. I agree with all of this, however, I disagree that this should be used in the case to support the idea of the Earth being designed for the life. This is not a religious debate, rather a reasoned one. The designed Earth statement means that it would be the result of a designer that knew what life required and then created the Earth for the purpose, even if the designer was nature.

What is to say that if one of these things changed that there would be no life on earth? Of course, there would be differences between the life that we know and the life that would have existed, that is a given in these new set of circumstances. The earth as we know is a perfect place for life and that life can be found almost anywhere on the planet. If we take the statement the earth is designed for life, let’s put that into a deductive model so we can see what we have:

The Earth was designed for Life.
Only Earth (or Earth like planets) has the ability to support life.
Life can only exist on the Earth or Earth like planets.

All we need is to find life that does not exist on earth, to show that environments unlike Earth’s can support living things and from that we can take the earth was not designed for life, since other places that are not like the earth has life on them. As soon as life not from earth exists then we either have to reject the idea of a designed earth or we have to consider that other planets or places in the universe are also designed. It just happens that the ‘unique’ set of circumstances makes the earth a successful place for life , being successful is different from the notion of a designed earth. Carolyn Porco discusses the idea that one of Saturn’s moons Enceladus has the three building blocks of creation; liquid water, organic materials and heat. This was discovered via the last probe that went passed the moon and in theory it is possible that life on Enceladus is completely achievable. This moon has the right environment for the life as we know it to exist. If it is later discovered that there is life on Enceladus, which would most likely be in the form of micro organisms, then that would prove false the statement the Earth is designed for life and we would have to rethink the statement to produce something like the earth and other places are designed for life. Or it would be equally likely that the statement some places in the universe have a greater likelihood of life depending on certain factors, would be an acceptable replacement. This is not design but rather chance and a certain possibility considering the size of the galaxy.

It is interesting that if life on Enceladus is found, where would this leave the idea of evolution as a scientific theory? I think that it would support the idea strongly, once we have removed the idea of the Earth being designed for life we are left with the notion that life is designed for the earth, even if we assume that the Earth is such a great place for life, then nothing better than evolution explains both this life in two places in our solar system.

I cannot wait until the next mission to Enceladus!

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