What happened to the Neanderthals

Some scientists think they have discovered what happened to the Neanderthals. The more advanced, more highly evolved homo sapiens ate them:

One of science’s most puzzling mysteries – the disappearance of the Neanderthals – may have been solved. Modern humans ate them, says a leading fossil expert.

The controversial suggestion follows publication of a study in the Journal of Anthropological Sciences about a Neanderthal jawbone apparently butchered by modern humans. Now the leader of the research team says he believes the flesh had been eaten by humans, while its teeth may have been used to make a necklace.

Fernando Rozzi, of Paris’s Centre National de la Récherche Scientifique, said the jawbone had probably been cut into to remove flesh, including the tongue. Crucially, the butchery was similar to that used by humans to cut up deer carcass in the early Stone Age. “Neanderthals met a violent end at our hands and in some cases we ate them,” Rozzi said.

Geoengineering the climate

Another solution being proposed to counter the alleged global warming–in addition to reducing the carbon in the atmosphere–is “geoengineering.” Here is what Samuel Thernstrom of the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute is proposing:

The most promising ideas take their proof of concept from nature. Scientists noted that the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines cooled the planet for two to three years by roughly half a degree Celsius. There are ways of artificially reproducing this effect. For instance, ultra-fine sulfur particles injected into the upper atmosphere could deflect 1 or 2 percent of incoming sunlight — almost unnoticeable but enough to cancel out the warming expected to occur this century. This would not halt the slow acidification of the oceans caused by elevated levels of carbon dioxide, but it could cool the planet and drastically reduce the heat-related damages we would otherwise experience, buying time for emissions reductions to take effect.

There are other potentially effective geoengineering techniques that deserve serious study. For instance, low-altitude marine stratocumuli clouds, which cover about 25 percent of the world’s oceans, also reflect sunlight. Research suggests that it might be possible to increase the reflective abilities of these clouds by spraying a fine mist of seawater into the air. A fleet of roughly 1,500 ships (estimated cost: $2 million per ship) might be able to increase the reflectivity of these clouds by 10 percent, enough to counteract anticipated warming.

Into this category we could put the idea of painting the world’s roofs white so as to reflect more of the sun’s energy back into space.

My impression is that some conservatives are embracing such schemes–since they would supposedly be cheap and painless, as opposed to “cap and pay” schemes and eliminating carbon fuels–while they are being opposed by environmentalists for their trust in technology and for being, well, painless. But aren’t both approaches equally outlandish in their own ways?

Theistic evolution

Theistic evolutionists say they believe in God while also believing in Darwinism. They maintain that God used evolution as His way of creating the world. But the whole point of Darwinism is that the process of mutation and natural selection is random and undirected! If they want to believe that God directed some form of evolution, theistic evolutionists would have to embrace some form of intelligent design, but they don’t, trying to distance themselves from that line of investigation so as to remain respectable Darwinists.

John G. West of the Discovery Institute was able to get a platform in the Washington Post to raise some of these issues:

The real sticking point is Darwin’s claim that all of life–human beings included–developed through a blind and undirected process of natural selection acting on random variations. In the words of late Harvard paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson, “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.”

There are ways to try to reconcile Darwinism’s undirected process with theism, but they involve throwing overboard some long-cherished beliefs about God.

The first idea to go is the belief that God directed the development of life toward specific ends. According to biologist Kenneth Miller, one of the most prominent proponents of “theistic” evolution, God did not plan the specific outcomes of evolution–including the development of human beings. Miller describes humans as “an afterthought, a minor detail, a happenstance in a history that might just as well have left us out.” While God knew that undirected evolution was so wonderful it would create some kind of creature capable of praising Him, that creature could have been “a big-brained dinosaur” or “a mollusk with exceptional mental capabilities” rather than us.

Seeking to lessen the discomfort such arguments pose for most religious believers, Francis Collins suggests that God “could” have known the specific outcomes of evolution beforehand even though He made evolution appear “a random and undirected process.” In other words, God is a cosmic trickster who misleads people into thinking that nature is blind and purposeless, even though it isn’t.

One need not be a religious fundamentalist to find such arguments less than satisfying. Indeed, one need not be religious at all. Media coverage notwithstanding, theistic evolution has been shunned by leading evolutionary biologists, 87 percent of whom deny the existence of God and 90 percent of whom reject the idea that evolution is directed toward an “ultimate purpose” according to a 2003 survey.

While theistic evolutionists are mired in the past trying to defend Darwin’s nineteenth-century mechanistic process, other scientists and scholars are suggesting that twenty-first century science is fast making Darwin obsolete. Experiments with bacteria, where evolution can be tested in real time, are showing just how little undirected processes like natural selection can actually accomplish. Experiments with protein sequences are revealing how astonishingly fine-tuned protein sequences must be to work at all. And the DNA inside each of us is disclosing massive amounts of genetic information that points to mind, not chance and necessity, as the ultimate source of biological innovations.

Such discoveries do not “prove” God’s existence, but they do provide tantalizing evidence that life was produced by an intelligent process rather than a mindless one, a finding that certainly has positive implications for faith.

The Roman Catholic Church, no less, seems to have embraced theistic evolution. Do Catholics account for these difficulties?

New embryonic stem-cell guidelines

The National Institute of Health has issued newguidelines for embryonic stem cell research, in light of President Obama’s desire to remove Bush-era restrictions. Under the new policies, the government will fund stem cell research using–and destroying–extra embryos engendered at fertility clinics and no longer needed. The new guidelines will at least draw the line at engendering embryos just to destroy them for their stem cells. Cloning and combining embryos into two-species “chimeras” will also not be permitted. But still, this new policy will kill viable, transplantable human beings.

Not smart enough to do his taxes

“The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.” Albert Einstein.

He also said: [on filing for tax returns] “This is too difficult for a mathematician. It takes a philosopher.”

Anorexia for Jesus?

Emma comments on a post from over a year ago: The pro-Anorexia movement. Her comments and request are unlikely to be noticed on that old post, so I’ll repeat them here:

I am currently collecting information for a website project for university. I am writing about the ‘slim for Him’ programme in the states. Is there anyone who would be willing to share their personal experiences with me? I am looking at the pressures young women are put under by religion (particulary Christianity) and society (through the media).

I would also like to comment on the above posts. Having anorexia nervosa is a direct result of the pressures of the environment around you, whether it is from people or living up to media representations of what ‘beauty’ is considered to be. It is only one dimension of the multitude of practices which include tatooing, piercing, branding, cutting, binding, bodybuilding and gymnastics in which the outer body is transformed, inscribed and altered. Anorexia and fasting is just a slower waty to achieve similar means. It is much more dangerous.

“Slim for Him”? For Jesus?

Why, oh, why do so many young people harm themselves like this?