Thursday, February 6, 2014

The great debate (again!) Evolution V Creationism

Americans were treated to another debate of Evolution versus Creationism this week. Ever since the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial was lost by the Creationists, this old war horse gets dragged out every few years and since neither side is listening to what the other has to say, both sides declare victory.

It's no wonder that we have such high unemployment and a growing divide between the "haves" and "have-nots" as increasingly the Creationists lack the skills in Science and Math that are required to obtain high paying jobs in Engineering, Biotech, Robotic Manufacturing, Computer Science, Design, Architecture, and the like.

Sadly, I don't think that it's possible to convince a creationist that he or she may be wrong. My experience has shown me that creationists are not capable of doubting their own intellectual capabilities, that they are simply not bright enough to understand the most basic of scientific concepts, and cannot infer from a concept a hypothesis or a logical conclusion. Creationists are not individuals who are likely to be accepted at the best educational institutions, they are not likely to have toughed out a difficult course of study in mathematics, chemistry, physics, or astronomy. Creationists believe in their simple gut feelings about most things. Challenging those gut feelings won't get you anywhere with a person that lacks inquisitive stamina and has no capacity for doubt or intellectual pursuits.

Creationists must have faith in the current opinion of a group of theologians to form their beliefs. Those beliefs may not be questioned by the faithful or they risk being shunned or excommunicated by the group. Unfortunately, opinion cannot be tested so it must be either believed or not believed.

Science is the practice of observation that leads to the development of theory and as scientists seek to prove or more often, disprove that theory, consensus builds. Opinion is irrelevant if it cannot be tested.

In the above picture, note the young woman with the lop-sided gaze and smug facial expression. Her question reveals that she is lacking the most simple awareness that there have been many, many "missing link" fossil discoveries since "Lucy" was discovered in 1973. One such recent find was "Selam" in 2000 who lived 120,000 years before Lucy and was also an Australopithicus afarensis. In 2005 at Dmanisi, Georgia, "Skull 5" was found of an early hominid that dates back to 1.8 million years ago and in October, another discovery at that site has led scientists to believe that all of these skulls have been representations of one slowly evolving species related to man, not many different ones as was previously believed. This will be further tested, but evolution theory continues to be proved and improved, not unproved.

If a creationist were capable of combining a couple of the most simple undeniable and uncontroversial facts about the nature of the universe, one example might help shut down the entire argument, once and for all.

Light travels at a speed of 299,792,458 meters per second. This was proven in 1881 by Albert Michelson and has been tested and reproved through subsequent experimentation with increasingly better instruments each time. With this knowledge, one can extrapolate how far light may travel in one year, giving us a distance unit of reference, the light year of 6 trillion miles.

Basic Astronomy uses trigonometric parallax and spectroscopic parallax to measure the distances to stars, nebulas, and other galaxies. Those distances are calculated in light years.

The Large Magellanic Cloud is 157,000 light years from earth. That means that the light from one of the nearest galaxies is so far away that it takes 157,000 years to reach Earth.

Creationists currently believe that the heavens and the earth were created in the blink of an eye less than 10,000 years ago. If the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, we should;t be able to see the Large Magellanic Cloud for at least another 147,000 years.

We would't be able to see most of the Milky Way,  or any other galaxy like Andromeda, the MilkyWay Galaxies nearest spiral galactic neighbor.

The strange thing about this debate is that Science was created to explain the Universe, not to disprove the existence of God. Creationists almost uniformly believe that the two are mutually exclusive. They think that you cannot believe in both. Hogwash.

After this week's debate, attending Creationists posed 22 questions for scientists to answer. Looking at the childlike 22 questions, one begins to realize that the questions run the gamut from philosophy to basic science, and are very easily answered by anyone with a good high school education.
The real loss comes to a people who have decided that ignorance, superstition, and blind adherence to unreasoned dogma is more important than a desire to seek truth. One path leads to the moon, mars and the stars, the other path to death camps and book burnings.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Sochi Olympics Train-wreck

Perhaps you've been living under a rock, or more likely, nursing a not-so-super Superbowl hangover? If so, you might have missed yesterday's near-empty press conference by International Olympic Committee Chairman, Thomas Bach. Mr. Bach used the opportunity to criticize world leaders for  deciding not to attend the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi and for using them "as a stage for political dissent or for trying to score points in internal or external political contests."

The chastising, clearly directed at US President Obama, German President Joachim Gauck, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron and other leaders, was immediately followed by revelations that many of the newly built hotels in Sochi are not ready for guests and that the conditions in many rooms are like something out of a nightmare with taps that dispense toxic water (when the plumbing works at all), lack of heat, filth, bare electrical outlets, broken or missing furnishings, unlit stairwells, non-working elevators, and construction workers camped out in hallways.

News also followed of additional security threats after months of revelations that guests safety cannot be guaranteed by Russian Security  at non-Olympic venues like hotels and restaurants in the areas surrounding Sochi. The games have been plagued by news of security threats after a terrorist attacked a Volgograd train station a little over a month ago, killing 16 and injuring 50 others. Russia has been a constant target of terrorists attacks for decades owing to their history of human rights abuses when the Soviet Union dominated the nearby region for most of the twentieth century.

Strangely, Volgograd was also the recent sight of the murder of a 23 year old man, Vladislav Tornovoi, who after a night out drinking with some longtime buddies, revealed to them that he was gay. He was discovered the following morning, his genitals mutilated, he had been raped with a broken beer bottle, his head caved in with a brick and then set on fire.

Despite massive international criticism over Russia's new anti-gay laws criminalizing LGBT persons, foreign and domestic, from stating anything that might be construed as positive about themselves in a public forum, the Russian President Vladamir Putin has ensured the safety of any LGBT athletes who choose to attend and compete in the games. But he warned, "Leave our children alone," insinuating that LGBT people are pedophiles when research and the body of criminal law has overwhelmingly proven it to be a habit of heterosexual males visited on their daughters worldwide.

Yesterday's posting of a YouTube video by Human Rights Watch showing some of the actual violence that has been perpetrated on Russian LGBT youth over the past year following the passing of the law that has emboldened some to even commit murder. Yesterday, the three Russian friends of the young 23 year old Tornovoi were sentenced to the minimum nine years in prison because Russians overwhelmingly believe that Vladislav Tornovol got what he deserved. The brutal slaying of a gay man after he was tortured by his friends, beaten to death, and set on fire is punished by a slap on the back and a sentence in a country club prison, likely to be released in a few months for good behavior. The message to Russian LGBT youth: Don't be who you are or we'll kill you.

Mr. Bach, ignoring all of this, called on world leaders to "have the courage to address your disagreements in a peaceful direct political dialogue and not on the backs of the athletes."

Some might suggest that Mr. Bach should have the courage to admit that it was a mistake to choose a violently dangerous, corrupt, poorly-developed country, with an abysmal record of human rights as a place to host an event that is intended to highlight the very best that humans can achieve when competing, working and playing together in an atmosphere of mutual dignity and respect.

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