Happy Darwin Day!

Okay, so I blew this one. I don’t have anything prepared for Darwin’s 200 birthday. What a schmuck I am.

So this is an open thread. Have at it, folks. That is, if you have any energy left — today’s posts have been a whirlwind of comments.

And just because it seems appropriate, here’s a cute monkey eating an apple (which is really propaganda!):

YouTube Preview Image

  • Ty

    Monkey’s are delicious.

  • Ty

    Gah! Nope infected me with the apostrophe bug!

  • Elemenope

    Sorry ’bout that.

  • lra364

    Tiny primates! Yes!

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    Ha! I won’t mention libertarianism. :P

  • http://billpost.blogspot.com/ Bill

    From the “propoganda” website:

    “Last week the cult of crazed scientists released images of two puppies, who were cute, but were the product of cloning. As you know, clones are very evil as they are not the product of natural reproduction between men and women. They are lifeless vessels and an abomination. Therefore, the puppies are evil.”

    Stop the presses! Puppies usually come from “natural reproduction between men and women.” How did I miss this? How is it my wife and I wound up with baby humans instead of puppies? (Probably because god’s love didn’t shine down and bless us.)

  • Ty

    Man, I wish.

    I like puppies much more than babies, as a general rule.

  • Elemenope

    Ha! I won’t mention libertarianism.

    Awww! Why not? :)

  • Ty

    The first rule of libertarianism, is that you DO NOT TALK about libertarianism.

  • http://unreasonablefaith.com Daniel Florien

    It should be illegal to not be a libertarian! Er, wait…

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    Hehe, I don’t know if any of you would get this, but….

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/02/open_thread_3.php

    Inside jokes are fun. ;)

  • lra364

    I, too, loathe Ayn Rand.

  • Elemenope

    Wow. What the hell happened over there? I’m a [squeak, shift, shrug] libertarian…and I’ve never seen libertarian carpet poster bombing before.

    FWIW, Randian Objectivism != libertarianism. Srsly.

  • Elemenope

    I, too, loathe Ayn Rand.

    From a philosopher’s standpoint, she’s almost completely useless. Except! Once she gave a brilliant speech (I think it was to the West Point graduating class one year) on the topic of the practical implications of philosophical thought.

    I guess everyone gets “one”.

  • http://www.davewyman.com Dave

    Wow – this is gonna be a long link:

    Wow – this is a long link: http://books.google.com/books?id=QOr6kxk0MskC&pg=RA1-PA1&lpg=RA1-PA1&dq=herndon+%22life+of+lincoln%22&source=web&ots=mFfhcCtZwm&sig=gOPk4astkdtuXdpSEwawnNzmOxQ&hl=en&ei=Bt2USeTyDYr2sAPW4_2xBw&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=7&ct=result#PRA1-PA156,M1

    It’s Lincoln’s birthday, too. He wasn’t an atheist. He was no Christian, either.

    The link leads to an ebook written about him late in the 19th century, with a chapter that deals with his rejection of the Christian concept of God.

  • John C

    Speaking of animals…here’s a hilarious, true story. The woman storyteller is my mom’s neighbor…hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
    ————————————————————————

    I took my dad to the mall the other day to buy some new shoes (he is 92).
    We decided to grab a bite at the food court.
    I noticed he was watching a teenager sitting next to him.
    The teenager had spiked hair in all different colors: green, red, orange, and blue.
    My dad kept staring at him. The teenager would look and find him staring every time.
    When the teenager had had enough, he sarcastically asked, ‘What’s the matter old man, never done anything wild in your life?’
    Knowing my Dad, I quickly swallowed my food so that I would not choke on his response, knowing he would have a good one, and in classic style he did not bat an eye in his response ‘Got drunk once, and had sex with a peacock. I was just wondering if you were my son.’

    JC

  • http://www.davewyman.com Dave

    Good story, John C. Just not a true story.

  • John C

    Yes, it is a true story…Nancy came over today and shared it with us…she takes her dad out every week…he is a hoot.

  • http://www.davewyman.com Dave

    OK – I’ll agree with you – this time.

  • HRSteve

    I raise you one opposable thumb in triumph!

  • John C

    Gee wiz Dave…where in the rule book does it say an atheist and a theist can’t share a funny chuckle?? lol

    Besides…A merry heart does good like a medicine; but a broken spirit dries the bones…Proverbs 17:22

  • http://unreasonablefaith.com Daniel Florien

    I think I’m dreaming. Was that really a comment by John C?

    And was that an atheist — gulp — agreeing with John C?

    *Looks around franticly*

    Ah, there it is. John’s second comment has a bible verse.

    Phew. It seems everything is back to normal!

  • John C

    @Daniel…

    Actually, that’s a proven scientific/medical fact that laughter (making merry) is good for us, for our physical well being.

    Ok be honest…did you like the peacock story? I thought it was hilarious…

  • http://www.davewyman.com Dave

    >And was that an atheist — gulp — agreeing with John C?<

    Everybody needs a gimme once in a while. ;-)

  • http://unreasonablefaith.com Daniel Florien

    John, I loved it! Now if I could only convince you to stick with funny stories… ;)

  • http://unreasonablefaith.com Daniel Florien

    I just realized John also said “proven scientific/medical fact.” I think we might be rubbing off on him!

  • John C

    Good one D…

  • John C

    Ok then…here’s another one for ya since we seem to be having a slow night on the ol’ forum…
    ————————————————————————-

    Cliff talking to Norm at the end of the bar on Cheer’s:

    Theory of Intelligence

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard the concept explained any better than this .

    ‘Well you see, Norm, it’s like this . . .
    A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo.
    And when the heard is hunted,
    it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first.
    This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole,
    because the general speed and health of the whole group
    keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members.
    In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells.
    Now, as we know, excessive intake of alcohol kills brain cells.
    But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first.
    In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells,
    making the brain a faster and more efficient machine.
    And that, Norm, is why you always feel smarter after a few beers.’

  • Sunny Day

    “Monkey’s are delicious.”

    I agree, I just can’t eat a whole one.

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    @ John C

    I love Cheers. That was funny. :D

  • John

    What’s up with that ChristWire.org propaganda site? It’s pushes pretty hard on Poe’s law, can’t figure what to make of it.

    It looks like they were all too ready to launch into tirades against Darwin today (and tell blatant lies about evolution)…

    http://christwire.org/2009/02/happy-200-birthday-charles-darwin-you-terror-loving-lunatic-february-12-2009/

    Oh boy on that one…

  • John C

    @Tele-

    Yea, I thought we were overdue for some mutual levity…

    I’ll be sure to revert back to the bible thumper you love to hate tomorrow morning first thing…lol

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    @ John C

    I don’t hate you…by any means.

    I just disagree with you most of the time.

  • John C

    @Tele-

    I know…I was just joking, I appreciate our discussions Tele and I appreciate you.

    All the best…

  • http://endemoniada.org/ Martin

    Wow, that ChristWire website was scary…
    “Proof African People Are Animals, Even if They do Live the Highlife”

    I really hope it’s satire, or this is (yet again) just another example of christianity being the direct cause of hatred and violence. These people might hate even without religion, but they sure use religion as an excuse a lot!

    Anyway, cute little monkey :)

  • Jabster

    @Martin/John

    “Though the source who leaked the image of this Deathvan is still unknown, odds are they managed to reveal this information after finding their way to the protection of Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo), where any foreign person can safely take refuge and report the atrocities occurring in their country to noble, kind American intelligence officials.”

    Maybe the site isn’t quite real?

  • http://pasje.livejournal.com Pascalle

    I loved the monkey!

    who knows.. maybe we can still evolve back into something cute ourselves.

  • http://blog.motheyes.com Moth Eyes

    Well, fortunately I came up with something that didn’t require any advance preparation, so I could do that. I’m going to blog The Voyage of the Beagle :)

    So if you’re interested in that more than you’re interested in Ayn Rand, feel free to join me :)

  • Matt

    So on a completely different topic. I’m having a discussion with a friend who I’ve had to combat his lack of reasoning and understanding when discussing evolution, when he came out with this:

    “I love my kids not based on chemicals in my brain. I love unconditionally? Why? Science does not explain that. I also know that I would endanger my own life to save a stranger. Where is science in that? If I were at gunpoint and someone told me to deny Christ or die…then my life would be over. Foe me science doesn’t explain these things nor can it ever. So I searched for more”

    So have we just slipped into a ‘god of the gaps’ discussion here? What have you guys found to be the best ways to discuss or explain this type of reasoning? Obviously I am the athiest and he claims to be a strong believer, but hates religion which he thinks is social manipulation…doesn’t stop him from quoting scripture at me though. :) Any thoughts you guys can provide would be great.

  • dr.R.

    @Matt,

    “I love my kids not based on chemicals in my brain”

    Propose him an experiment. He removes the chemicals from his brain, then we see how much love there is left.

    “deny Christ or die…then my life would be over… science doesn’t explain these things nor can it ever”

    I think there is a perfect scientific/psychological explanation for such a state of mind. I doubt he wants to hear it, though.

    But seriously, I think it’s a waste of your time.

  • dr.R.

    Darn, I messed up my italics. It must be Friday the 13th…

  • Elemenope

    You could go with

    1. Love is an experience
    2. All experiences of a person are experienced using the brain (i.e. a person without a brain could not experience love)
    3. The brain is a physical object, thus it must obey physical laws (we can observe it at work, etc.)
    4. Therefore, love is a physical process

    There are ways to argue against this reasoning, but it can get you started.

    Also, if he objects that emotions are irreducible, you can point out that there are other emotions, like fear for example, or craving, that we understand very well in the neurochemical sense. If fear and desire are emotions, and love is an emotion, what is it if anything that makes love different or special than those?

  • lra364

    Matt-

    Everything in our brains happens because of neurotransmitters. Without them, we’d be dead.

    So, yes, that includes love of any kind (whether it be for kids, strangers, or religion).

    The best collected source of information on this (IMO, but also at medical schools and neuroscience departments) is Principles of Neuroscience by Kandel, Jessel, and Swartz. Costs about $100 (as it is a text book) but well worth it!

  • http://thebeattitude.com theBEattitude

    Even christians are celebrating:

    http://christianpost.com/Intl/Overseas/2009/02/churches-mark-200th-anniversary-of-darwin-s-birth-12/index.html

    I’m not sure how they rationalize Darwin’s theroy with the story of Adam and Eve, but they’ll find a way. They always do.

  • Elemenope

    I’m not sure how they rationalize Darwin’s theory with the story of Adam and Eve, but they’ll find a way. They always do.

    It’s not hard. Really it isn’t. Why does everyone always believe that the only purpose that a story in the Bible can have is to communicate *facts*?

  • http://thinworker.wordpress.com/ Philip

    @thebeattitude

    “I’m not sure how they rationalize Darwin’s theroy with the story of Adam and Eve, but they’ll find a way. They always do.”

    lots of christians believe in evolution. what you may find is where the evolution begins is the point of conflict.

  • Matt

    @dr R, Elemenope, & lra364:

    Thank you for the starting points, I think I can make a good starting argument based on these precepts. Thats what I love about this blog…everyone is so open to discussion and kind in sharing responses. Thanks all!

  • Jonathon

    That is one cute little guy! How could anyone – even an insane moonbat creationist – look at this as “propaganda” in any way? It’s a monkey eating an apple…. and it is cute!

    Besides, evolution doesn’t say that we evolved from a monkey like this one. Evolution tells us that that money and we humans share a common ancestor. And we do! Genetics don’t lie.

    Now, for the theists. How can anyone look at this little creature and not feel a connection to it? Look into its eyes and tell me that one doesn’t instinctively want to pick up and love this little, precious animal? Isn’t it enough of a miracle that such beauty, such wonder actually exists? Is it not possible that the scriptures are not literal recounts of what actually happened?

    Isn’t your God big enough to exist in this universe? Would your faith in God collapse if you found out that the accounts in Genesis of creation are not 100% accurate? If so, then why believe it at all?

    Literalists have very little faith. They have unreasonable expectations of the intellectual work of people who lived several thousand years ago. These same people would discount the creation stories of any and every other faith as mere mythology, yet still claim that their book’s account is 100% accurate and true.

    Their God is simply not “god” enough to exist in this universe. They are little more than idolators when it comes to how they perceive their “holy book”.

  • Patrick

    There is a new book out …”Why Evolution is True” by Jerry A. Coyne. I finished reading it this week. I was left with a sense of awe concerning our origins. Evolution is not a moral system; it doesn’t explain how to behave, nor is it about ethics (this is what scares people about it). It explains our origins. Period. The evidence is undisputable!

    To believe, somehow, the Earth is merely 10.000 years old is really insulting in this day and age, based on what we know.

    A quote (paraphrase) from the book about the timeline of man: If the 4 billion year history of Earth was represented by a calaneder year, man came on the scene at 6:00 a.m., December 31st.

    I dunno, I find that awe-inspiring for some reason.

  • Ty

    “Why does everyone always believe that the only purpose that a story in the Bible can have is to communicate *facts*?”

    Who believes that? As far as I know the only people who do are biblical literalists.

  • Elemenope

    Who believes that? As far as I know the only people who do are biblical literalists.

    And, apparently, Atheists who think every Christian they are arguing with is a biblical literalist.

    The “everyone” was hyperbole. (Sorry if I was unclear.)

  • Ty

    “And, apparently, Atheists who think every Christian they are arguing with is a biblical literalist.”

    I doubt this is true, though it can appear that way.

    Most atheists do find the logical contortions necessary to balance the bible and modern rational thought baffling.

    And some parts of the bible do not lend themselves to an easy hand wave of “it’s metaphor.”

    The fall story being one of them.

  • Patrick

    I don’t think everyone thinks all who believe in the bible are literalists. There are clearly truths in the bible. There are also truths in the talking animals of Aesop’s Fables, or Mother Goose. I don’t take them literally, but perhaps some people do. I don’t know.

    However, even those who are not literalists have to pick and choose which parts they believe in light of contrary evidence. They have to believe in the miracles, or they deny any power they think it has. Everything centers on the miracles.

    Time lines are wrong, and there is the miraculous (miracles) events which are breathtakingly unbelievable and childish in the less credulous times we live in today.

    Biblical time lines describe Adam and Eve as the first people, and Eve eating the apple later became known as “original sin.” Evolution shows the time line to be, beyond all doubt, wrong, as are so many other charming stories in the bible …utterly wrong.

    No original sin, no need to be “saved” from it.

  • Ty

    “No original sin, no need to be “saved” from it.”

    Right. Which makes the Fall story require a lot of gymnastics if you aren’t a literalist.

  • cello

    Which makes the Fall story require a lot of gymnastics if you aren’t a literalist.

    I think that the creation story, the concept of original sin, and the concept of salvation could all be taken as metaphorical truths. It would make for a very liberal Christianity but IMO, a valid one.

  • Ty

    “It would make for a very liberal Christianity but IMO, a valid one.”

    Which ones are the invalid ones?

    And yes, I know a lot of theologians who use exactly this type of liberal theology. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t require an awful lot of fast skating to make it work.

  • Patrick

    @ cello

    I mean no offense, cello. A valid one? Even with all these being metaphorical (not literal) truths, what’s the point?

    Let’s cut to the bottom line. People believe this stuff because they want to go to a literal heaven with gold streets, mansions, rivers of milk and honey (not many of those in the deserts of the Middle East, I can understand how the myth originated), or for some reason, be close to something larger than themselves. Magical, even.

    Or, they are afraid of getting a special spiritual body specifically designed for torture in hell, forever. 10.000.000.000.000.000.000 years from now I will still be frying if I do not “believe” this stuff.

    I understand it, but I don’t believe it.

    If these are not literal places, what is the point at all?

  • Jabster

    @cello/Ty

    If you don’t take the Bible as literal, and I believe that the vast majority of Christians don’t, how do you sort out what’s just a explanation and what’s is really true. Where do you stop — is Jesus real is god real? Going down this route leads to vast accusations of ‘just making stuff up’ — did the original authors believe it should be taken literally or not?

  • Ty

    Huh? What are you asking me?

    I do think it’s all made up. I do think the original authors wrote it to be taken literally.

    I was just saying that I know theologians who preach the brand of liberal theology that Cello mentioned.

  • cello

    By valid, I meant coherent.

    @ jabster & Patrick,

    If someone bases their theology on a literal interpretation of the Bible, does it make it any more true than if they just made it up? Not IMO. The Bible writers themselves were “just making stuff up” based upon their own experiences anyway. They were just fortunate enough to have written it down 2,000 years ago so now everyone thinks it carries some type of age authority.

  • Jabster

    @Ty

    Just as you were part of the thread with cello — not asking you a question so sorry for the confusion.

    @cello

    I don’t think it makes it more valid as such but to me it’s more consistent than “that’s true, that’s a metaphor, let’s just forget that bit ever existed.” If the tool for validting what is literal and what is not is the same tool you are studying then it just doesn’t work.

  • Ty

    “If the tool for validting what is literal and what is not is the same tool you are studying then it just doesn’t work.”

    But VERY Christian. :)

    “All scripture is inspired of god,” says the bible.

  • latsot

    Matt:

    “I love unconditionally? Why? Science does not explain that. I also know that I would endanger my own life to save a stranger. Where is science in that? [...] Foe me science doesn’t explain these things nor can it ever. So I searched for more”

    There’s quite a lot to tease out here.

    First, it is simply incorrect to suggest that current science doesn’t explain – to some extent – love. It has a lot to say on the matter from a number of angles. For example, people here have already answered about the chemicals question. There are also good evolutionary explanations for feeling love toward our children and other close kin and slightly different good evolutionary explanations for behaving altruistically towards strangers. There are lots of places to read about this. Dawkins has written about it several times in a very clear, concise, entertaining way, you could start there.

    At the risk of stating the obvious, rather than trying to understand the science, your friend seems to have decided in advance that it’s wrong. This is hardly uncommon and is precisely what religion tends to encourage. It also tends to lead to conformation bias. The fact that he has also decided that science could *never* explain this stuff is evidence of this and a sign that perhaps he’s not interested at all in asking questions. He knows what he wants the answer to be and doesn’t want to ask any questions that might jepordise this.

    Perhaps the key phrase here is “for me”. This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what science is and how it works. Science doesn’t depend on opinions. You don’t get to say “well, all the evidence points to it, but it still isn’t true.” That’s the whole point. There may be some value in explaining how science works.

    As for strategies for dealing with this mindset, I would suggest analogy, to begin with. Although we can’t know how other animals feel, we can observe their behaviour. Lots of animals behave altruistically. Some animals display what seems to be complex emotional behaviour. Why are humans deemed to be automatically different? If we are not just doing more or less the same thing as other animals (perhaps writ large) then shouldn’t there be a natural way to describe the dividing line between, say, behaviour of chimps and behaviour of humans? It might not be as simple as a ‘line’, but surely the difference ought to be fairly easy to describe? Otherwise, how can anyone claim that there’s a qualitative (rather than just a quantitative) difference? We used to say things like “animals can’t use tools”. We’ve discovered that is wrong. We also had “animals can’t plan” and “animals can’t reason abstractly” and “animals can’t use language”, all of which have been proven wrong. We just keep uncovering more and more evidence that the differences between humans and other animals are not fundamental.

    What I’m suggesting is that by educating your friend a bit more about similarities between humans and animals, you may be able to open his mind just a crack and sow some doubt.

    Of course, it might also slam the crack even more tightly closed. If your friend starts protesting that animals don’t have souls or something, either the strategy hasn’t worked or he’s misunderstood your explanation.

  • Matt

    @latsot:

    Thanks for taking the time to write this up. It looks quite helpful.

  • Wendy

    OH MY FSM, HOW CUUUUUTE!!!!!!!!!!! (I’ll never understand how someone can look at a monkey, ape, chimp, etc of any sort, and say it’s not related to us. Look at it! It’s hard to come up with any DIFFERENCES between us… Besides the tails, of course… But, tailbone, anyone?)