Tag Archives: evolution

A New Year’s Resolution Challenge for All – Always Augment Your Intelligence

The other day I saw someone online boast about how they knew some obscure English etymology fact as they proclaimed that they ‘didn’t even have to look it up!’ Their pride in their knowledge of a trivial fact was a revelation for me: my generation usually takes great pride in their knowledge of facts, as if knowing something obscure were of value by itself. However does knowing facts matter as much in this day and age, and does knowing more facts than your neighbor make your life better anymore than having more beer caps would?

Remember when you memorized kingdoms, phylums, orders, species in that branching tree of life? That's all been uprooted and it's better and more useful to look up the clade and phylogeny of species now.
Remember when you memorized kingdoms, phylums, orders, species in that branching tree of life? That’s all been uprooted and it’s better and more useful to look up the clade and phylogeny of species now.

Before you automatically object, please take a moment to weigh some values against the facts you treasure.

First – Is it better to know things, or is it better to know how to know new things? Is it better to commit things to memory, or is it better to commit patterns, learning tools, logic, faces, friends, beautiful moments, and art to memory? Is the knowledge that you have as important as the journey to gain it?

Second – Any bare fact in and of itself is pretty trivial – and gaining that fact is more trivial still. This thudded home to me with great force on my last vacation as I watched a couple unfold a map, and pore over it, trying to find some location. Meanwhile their teen kept trying to interject and they kept hushing her. It took the teen pushing her phone screen with a pinpointed map on it in her parents face for them to recognize that she had just asked her phone and found the spot they’d both been arguing over and trying to find for ten minutes. She’d done it in seconds.

Third – Our memories are fallible, and we all have built in biases. These are inescapable conditions of being human. What we think we know is sometimes wrong. e.g. My wife tells me I’m wrong a lot. I think it was Socrates who said something akin to “The unexamined life is not worth living” so why don’t you examine your assumptions and “knowledge” on occasion?

Fourth: Our biases aren’t all socially evolved conditions of being human, some are built in by purposeful lies. That’s known as propaganda, and propaganda is driven by fear and hate. Propaganda only works with the ignorant, or the with the willfully ignorant.

Fifth: Your human perceptions are also flawed, maybe that song’s not really about a cross-eyed bear. (mondegreen – you could look it up.)

So why think you know some fact, or take a guess, when instead you can just ask Google, Siri, Alex, or even Bing? Why not double check even if you think you know? When I thought I knew the quote author above I was a bit wrong…. Yes, it was Socrates sort of, but only as paraphrased by Plato’s recollection of his speech at his trial. I just learned something new that I thought I already knew. So there’s the power of augmenting your intelligence. Finding that out was as simple as asking my pad.

Perhaps to my generation facts are of more value simply because of the efforts you had to go to just to obtain them – as my many trips to the library for my high school debate team attest to… nowadays finding things out has become trivial with all of the online data tools and search engines that we have at our beck and call.

In this millenium why shouldn’t you Google, ask Siri, or Alexa, almost anything just to double check? Why wouldn’t you augment your intelligence with the biggest brain and knowledge base on the planet: the Internet? Please take a New Year’s resolution to start asking Google and Siri more, start augmenting your feeble human intelligence, in this coming year stop handicapping your brains friends. Be not proud of what you know – instead be proud that you are smart enough to look it up.

Crossposted to LittleGreenFootballs.com .

Retroviruses, Pseudogenes, and Common Descent

Proofs of common descent that are pretty devastating to AIG, ICR’s, and Discovery Institute’s creationist arguments are the genetic histories of our species. In our genes you will find retrovirus strands in the same places you find them in our common ancestor species. With this data and these proofs the phylogenetic tree is being tuned by researchers and once enough full gene maps are compared we will know our full ancestry, and we will know it without any substantive doubts.

Simple but Eloquent Proofs of our Common Ancestry

Science uses some of the SINEs and LINEs of our times to track our common ancestry, and determine some of what had to be true of your evolution and mine.

Our great national shame is that only Turkey has lower belief in the science of evolution than we do. We can not hope to maintain our lead in science, technology and to keep our pre-eminence as a world power if this ignorance continues  far into this century.

Holier than Thou: Outcast for Promoting Science

Within some extreme fundamentalist sects of Islam there’s a doctrine known as “Takfirism”  – it’s most often used by terrorists like Ayman Al Zawhari, or by fundamentalist schools to justify killing other muslims through declaring them apostate. To boil it down to simple terms, on one pretext or another (your beard was trimmed to you played a music CD, etc, ) a person is declared Takfir and branded as apostate, and for the more extreme fundamentalists apostates are subject to death as punishment. To put it in simplest terms you are declared a heretic by someone who claims to be holier than you in your own faith.

For real Takfir most real scholars believe that the person who becomes Takfir must make a declaration of such or an open denial of some major component of their faith, you become Takfir through your own declaration or decision, not the declaration or or decision of another.

What’s this got to do with you and I?

In an earlier article I pointed out how Fox is either a sucker for the most fundamentalist views in Christianity, or they are are actively promoting those over mainstream Christian views, take your pick. In the US these fundamentalists use a similar “holier than thou” stance to brand anyone who doesn’t promote exact, literal, biblical inerrancy as a heretic and to cast them out. (Note that none of these  extremist Christians are so wrapped up in their own rhetoric that they think killing due to this is justified as some off flavor Salafi and Wahhabists in Islam do.)

Here’s another example as a followup to my earlier post, to demonstrate how intolerant these fringes really are and how ABC news is also a sucker for the extremists just like Fox:

In this segment they bring in notable Answers in Genesis whack ball Ken Ham try to refute the guy. You might remember Ken from the infamous “Creationism Museum” in KY, you know the one where they imply that all black people are cursed.

The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life

Darwin’s tree of life has been much ridiculed by creationist fundamentalists since its conception by the brilliant scientist, but every branch, fork, and dead leaf becomes clearer with passing time. The decoding of genomic branching strengthens the theory of evolution almost every day as new papers are published. The tree is much more complex but at the same time simpler than even Darwin imagined.

In the old days one of the key objections to evolution was the step of the first animals from water to land. The evidence has become so strong that you don’t hear that objection anymore, with proof of the transition of  life from water to land and sometimes back again. This has occurred not once or twice but instead many times across many species. (Plants, insects, worms, all started at one point in water as an example.) Here’s a beautifully done video that illustrates the tree in a simple manner.

For more please visit the tree of life site.

Irreducible Complexity Debunked Again; DI Trashed Again

Irreducible Complexity Debunked Again

NCSE has a new video out covering evolution of the mollusk eye which debunks one of the ID/Creationist’s favorite claims: that the eye is just too complex to have evolved, that each step would need to provide a benefit to be selected for. They are right in the second part, but wrong in the first. The eye did evolve naturally over long periods of time through many simple steps – but each provided some benefit. This video traces evolution of the eye in just one phylogenetic tree branch.

This second video is a great recap of some of the challenges overcome by NCSE in the Dover Trial and in Kansas when the board wanted to remove science standards.